When the son of Macau casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun unveiled his company’s latest development in the city, the HK$5 billion Lisboeta resort in Cotai, last month, he was clear it was not going to be just another gambling destination.
“The clientele I’m going for is … family travellers.” said Arnaldo Ho Yau-heng, director of Macau Theme Park and Resort. “Hotels survive in Macau even when they do not have a casino.”
His comments reflect the shift under way in the city away from its traditional reliance on gambling in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown on corruption, which has choked off the number of big-spending mainland punters.
At the same time, the central government’s call for the city to develop beyond a casino hub has also had owners rethinking their plans, a shift given added impetus with the expected boost to tourism after the opening last month of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that puts the city within easy driving range of a large and wealthy population.
“Many tourists, from mainland China in particular, view Macau as a paradise only for adults who gamble,” said Oliver Tong, associate director for capital markets at JLL Macau.
“We believe there will be more family and young tourists exploring the bridge and arriving in the city. To make these tourists stay as long as possible, we have to let them know there are activities suitable for them. For example, art exhibitions, culture performances and cosy places to stay for those who come to the city for such activities.”
The Macau Government Tourism Office expects this year’s tourist arrivals to reach 35 million, up from 32.6 million in 2017, while the city’s hotel industry expects to add another 4,000 rooms in the coming three years.
Hotels survive in Macau even when they do not have a casino
Arnaldo Ho Yau-heng, director, Macau Theme Park and Resort
Macau, which is home to 41 casinos, had surpassed Las Vegas to become the world’s No. 1 gambling city more than a decade ago.
But in 2015 as the central government’s crackdown intensified, casino revenues fell by as much as 50 per cent and occupancy rates at hotels dropped to 80.5 per cent, about 6 per cent lower than in 2014.
That led to the rethink by resort owners, with Ho’s Lisboeta development the latest to target the non-gambling tourist.
The design of the resort, the company said, paid homage to “old Macau”, and would feature three differently branded hotels in a single 12-storey tower: one hotel designed to evoke 1960s Macau, another featuring designs inspired by the Provence region of France and cosmetics maker L’Occitane, and a third, the 82-room Casa De Amigo, targeting millennials with room themes based on Line Friends characters from stickers used in the popular Japanese messaging app Line.
The resort will also offer indoor skydiving, cinemas and a zip-line as well as shops and restaurants.
Others to target the general tourist include Melco Crown Entertainment’s Morpheus Macau hotel, which was designed by British architect Zaha Hadid and opened in June. It features a contemporary art galley stretching across an entire floor. MGM Cotai meanwhile is hosting an exhibition of Chinese imperial carpets.
“We have to get a hold of more family tourists rather than gamblers. We have to offer more diversified accommodation,” said Ricardo Siu Chi-sen, a professor of business administration at the University of Macau.
“This will be the long-term trend in Macau in the future.”
More from South China Morning Post:
- Casino firm SJM plays down impact of Beijing money-laundering crackdown
- Gaming revenue slump deals Macau casino operator SJM a poor hand, as gambling tables fail to attract big spenders
- Lisboa Palace resort to cost SJM an extra HK$5b
- Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, 96, will retire as chairman of casino operator SJM Holdings