Macau is a city of year-round events. However, Government and destination marketing operators need to invest more time and efforts into promotion
Macau Business | April 2022 | Special Report | Macau’s branding challenge
After the mega-events held between 2005 and 2007 (East Asian Games and Asian Indoor Olympic Games), in 2013 the MGTO positioned Macau as a “City of Events” including the 25th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest and the 60th Macau Grand Prix, to name just a few.
According to several local experts who study Macau’s tourist image, the option was risky and the results far from satisfactory.
In 2009, two professors from the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) published a research paper (Branding Macau as the Las Vegas of the Far East) in which they argue that “despite these high-profile events, it seems as though the branding created by the Macau tourism authorities based on events is not being effectively communicated to potential tourists and tourists simply do not see event tourism as a strong reason to visit Macau.”
Five years later, a study led by Carlos Siu Lam, Gaming Teaching and Research Centre, Macao Polytechnic Institute, found that “the enhancement of Macau’s international destination image continues to be a moot issue for the MSAR, particularly in the last few years. The MSAR has coined for itself the ‘city of events’ as its main strategy to rejuvenate its tourism industry, with an almost seamless occurrence of year-round events. However, these few events have not impacted Macau’s tourism data very much.”
Professor Carlos Siu Lam highlighted that “the statistics from brochures, technical reports and websites clearly show the fact that Macau is primarily a day-trip destination for gaming and shopping,” proposing that, in this respect, Macau can learn something from Las Vegas: “while Macau has developed some first-class festivals and events, it lags far behind Las Vegas in quantity and variety. Festivals, events, and other recreation attractions have played a major role in the growth and diversity of tourism for Las Vegas. Efforts should be dedicated to creating a unique image and destination experience for Macau under the current resource constraints, rather than simply imitating Las Vegas.”
More recent studies confirm the same difficulties.
Zhaoyu Chen, School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University argues: “In fact, MGTO promotes year-round events via various tourism promotional channels to attract potential tourists. However, the results from this study indicate that the tourists were not informed about these events and did not experience the events. Therefore, promotional efforts should allocate more resources to increasing the visibility of the events and the accessibility of the public to these promotional channels. These efforts will further enhance the destination image of Macau as a diversified city,”
Along the same lines, seminal research published last year by Matthew Liu, Yongdan Liu and Kai Lam Ng, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau (together with Ziying Mo, International School of Business and Finance, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou) using tourists’ reviews from both Ctrip and TripAdvisor on the theme of “Macau attraction” found that “while the government and destination marketing operators had made huge efforts on branding Macau, the results provided in this study indicate that not all projected images have successfully affected tourists’ perceptions of the destination image.
“In the leisure and recreation dimension, although the government has promoted events, in this research’s analysis of the frequency of key terms, no key terms related to ‘events’ were collected for these years. This may indicate that tourists have not perceived the destination image of Macau as a ‘City of Events’,” the authors wrote, concluding: “The government and destination marketing operators need to invest more time and effort into promoting events.”
November 2020: amid the pandemic the Chief Executive announced in the Legislative Assembly that the Government intended to organize, together with the gaming concessionaires, a total of 12 large-scale sporting events during 2021.
The idea would be to organize one event per month, in collaboration with the six gaming concessionaires, such that each operator would be in charge of two. To the proposal, “the concessionaires gave a satisfactory and positive response,” said the Chief.
But during the same presentation of the Policy Address for 2021, Ho Iat Seng acknowledged that the plan was causing “some headaches” precisely because of the pandemic – which, as is well known, ultimately flushed the plans down the drain.
Two researchers from IFT, Loretta Tou Un Ieng and Kitty Fong Kit Sam, stated in an article published this year by the Macau News Agency that “the future prospect of the event industry in Macau is still positive because incentives and meetings will still be an important content and business for some of the companies, especially for those companies that were used to doing that as a norm. They will maintain this practice after recovery. Furthermore, when the situation improves, people will gradually start travelling again.”
The Macau Grand Prix was the event tourists mentioned most in the category of ‘events and festivals’.
That’s as true today as it was in the past.
In 2014, a study listed out some local events “to better understand if people recognize and associate them with Macau.”
Besides the Grand Prix, for which 52 per cent knew of its occurrence, “Most people didn’t know Macau hosted this variety of events. The promotion of Macau’s brand and its attributes would at least spread the word. Furthermore, 58 per cent of respondents said that Macau’s hosting of these events would not influence their decision on how frequently to travel to Macau. On the other hand, the rest (42 per cent) said that it could have an influence, supporting the necessity to promote the brand and its core attributes,” wrote the author of Macao as brand (2014).