Wish list

The critical nature of the tourism industry for the development of Macau and the well being of its population is beyond question. For that reason, the discussion of the future of tourism development is a major policy matter, and the “Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan”, under public consultation for another week, deserves more attention than it has received so far.
Four aspects seem to stand out when we discuss the future of tourism: the profile and number of visitors; the place or role of the casino industry in the sector; the expansion of non-gambling activities; and the implications of the sector’s evolution on urban planning and management. These topics are inter-related but distinct and are touched on in the document, although not necessarily in the exact way defined above. But that is not the main issue. The point is that the document somehow gives the impression that the analytical effort was less than comprehensive.
Take, for example, the characterisation of visitors. They are mainly categorised by place of origin, with the bulk, not surprisingly, coming from Mainland China and, more broadly, Greater China. Nothing is new there; the concentration of Macau’s source markets is already well-established. However, very little effort is made to differentiate those source markets or to profile the visitors according to their interests and motivations, or their visiting and spending patterns.
Can anyone disagree, in general terms, with the idea that “the tourism industry in Macau should co-develop with other industries and carve out a unique set of target segments”? And that doing so, is a challenge for the city? The issue is how to do this, how to define the targets, how realistic are they, and which tools are within our reach to achieve them. The document’s take on these issues is less obvious, to say the least.
From that very general definition of challenges, we jump, without really building an argument, to a list of so-called strategies, which encompass short and medium-term measures. That is all very well. They seem to imply a finer profiling of (desirable?) visitors. But whether well-defined approaches and criteria exist regarding the relative importance of those profiles and how to attract them is not clear. More should be done to substantiate the choices of objectives made and to define the proper tools to achieve them. Without these, the measures listed look more like a general wish list than a proper strategic development plan.