Macau’s development outshines that of Beijing’s Olympics

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Fireworks over Macau - Angela Costales/SXC

The tiny ex-Portuguese colony of Macau, just tacked onto South China and a 40 minute jet foil ride away from Hong Kong, is undergoing some serious investment and opportunities abound for the international hospitality and services industry. Now is the time, when all the hype is on Beijing, to take a look at what is happening in China’s newest SAR – having returned to the mainland in 1999.

August 28 sees the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel – the second largest building in the world – open. Supporting the Venetian Casino, 3,000 suites – yes that’s right, suites – “the largest standard rooms in the world” will open, giving tired shoppers from the mainland a chance to relax after poring over 350 shops, 20 restaurants, a massive lagoon with 51 gondolas to ride on from the real Venice in Italy, and a St. Marks Tower replica. The old Chinese concept “Windows of the World” – recreating internationally famous landmarks so the Chinese could get an idea of the original without having to travel – has arrived, Vegas style. The complex theater is due to have a permanent troupe of Cirque de Soleil performances, while by the year end the Venetian will boast it’s own port with direct ferries to Hong Kong.

Entertainment? How about seeing LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Orlando Magic (October 20th), Roger Federer take on ex-World number one Pete Sampras (November 24th) or Madonna, Celine Dion, Elton John or 50 Cent (dates tbc) in concert? This is before you’ve even hit the casinos – Macau is cleverly trying to keep its visitors there for three to four days rather than the 1-2 day visit that has been the norm to date.

And that’s just for starters. New hotels opening in Macau include an international list of who’s who, just read through this in ascending magnitude of rooms:

Conrad Hotel (300 rooms)
Four Seasons (400)
St. Regis (400)
MGM Hotel (600)
Shangri-La (600)
Traders Hotel (1,200)
Hilton (1,200)
Galaxy Mega Resort (1,500)
Fairmont Raffles (1,500)
Sheraton Hotel (4,000)

With the Wynn Casino having opened up in late 2006, their 600 rooms are now almost solidly booked, with the casino itself becoming the most popular in the city, turnover in Macau immediately surpassed Las Vegas when the Wynn opened. The city is now set to leave Vegas far, far behind. The Crown Macau Hotel already boasts a six star hotel with 216 massive rooms on Taipa Island, just opposite the Wynn, with expansion plans set to include a Hard Rock Cafe, and a permanent underwater hotel, ready by end 2008. Wynn are not to be outdone – their Diamond Hotel will be ready in 2010, and according to the business, promises to be “truly spectacular”. Sands, again already operational in Macau, are building a new tower to their existing property.

The impact is set to be gigantic, Macau’s population alone is expected to grow nearly 10 percent to an already small enclave, with 30,000 staff required just to keep all these developments on the road, and tourist numbers expected in the millions. This for a location with a previously stable population of just about 500,000.

The lure for hospitality and service companies to get in and start working is immense. But paradoxically, the place to be located in order to serve Macau may not be the territory itself. Problems with size, and the inevitable rises in costs of land, housing and salaries make Zhuhai – right across the border in mainland China – an attractive spin off location. With literally a walk across the border – or teams of buses willing to take you across, Zhuhai offers Macau market access but without the expense, and daily traveling permits will see much of the required working population based in mainland China.

Interested? The person to contact is Alberto Vettoretti at Dezan Shira & Associates, who operates three offices in Guangdong province (the area next to Macau) alone and whose Zhuhai client base extends from Daimler-Chrysler to Kangol Hats. For sure – the new big thing in the hospitality industry in China is not what is happening with Beijing’s Olympics as a one-off event. It’s the financial and development revolution that is taking place in Macau at the other end of the country, and hospitality and related services businesses familiar with casinos and resorts need to get over there – and start to “Sinofy” their bottom lines. It’s where the new dollars are – and are going to continue – to be spent. Tomorrow’s customers are Chinese, and if you follow your clients – then you need to consider Macau.