Newest Casino Resort By Famed Tycoon Lui Che Woo Boasts Entertainment “Tailored For Chinese Tourists”
One city that we find particularly interesting, particularly as more mainland Chinese tourist-shoppers head further afield, is Macau. Since returning to Chinese control in 1999, the city has sought to clean up its image from one of a seedy backwater to a modern gambling and entertainment center, more Las Vegas than Bangkok. In terms of business, the Macau/Beijing strategy of massive investment in infrastructure and the construction of new casino-resorts by the likes of Steve Wynn, Stanley Ho and Sheldon Adelson has seen Macau’s casino revenue surpass that of its American counterpart Las Vegas since 2006 and continue to boom since then. Last year, total gaming revenue jumped 58 percent to $23.5 billion, amid a surge in domestic tourism that saw nearly 21 million mainland Chinese head to the former Portuguese colony, and this year, Macau is expected to take in five times the gaming revenue of Las Vegas. In the first four months of 2011 alone, tourism figures have been impressive, with the Macau Statistics and Census Service recording 6.4 million tourist arrivals since January, 3.6 million from mainland China, a 10 percent rise over the same period in 2010.
Although the economic figures themselves are strong, one thing that continues to set Las Vegas and Macau apart is the latter’s ongoing struggle to attract multi-day tourists via entertainment and family options. As Vegas casinos and resorts have successfully diversified their offerings over the past couple of decades, bringing in respectable art exhibitions, signing high-profile deals with popular entertainers, and putting an almost Disney-like sheen on their images, Macau and Beijing have spent millions in the hopes of transforming the gambling enclave into one of Asia’s top tourist destinations, but this has yet to fully pay off, as Jing Daily pointed out last November.
So what’s the hold-up? As CNNGo suggested last July, Macau’s slow transformation may be partly due to the less-than-enthusiastic reception that many mainland Chinese tourists have given the entertainment options available to them in Macau. However, given the muted reviews received by the Venetian Macau’s massively hyped Cirque du Soleil show “Zaia” since its premiere in 2008, newer casinos have worked to ensure entertainment options are heavy on Asian cultural influences, in the hopes of hitting some sort of resonance with Chinese visitors. Last fall saw the opening of “The House of Dancing Water,” a US$250 million show that combines acrobatics and theater, at Lawrence Ho’s City of Dreams. Unlike other productions that have been essentially imported into Macau, “The House of Dancing Water,” Macau’s most expensive show to date, was tailor-made with a Chinese audience in mind by former Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone — a fact that hasn’t been lost on local audiences.
Now, with the opening of the Galaxy Entertainment Group‘s newest casino, the $1.9 billion Galaxy Macau, group chairman Lui Che Woo thinks he’s found the perfect balance of gambling and entertainment that will bring in mainland Chinese gamblers and convince them to bring their families along for a longer trip. From Forbes:
The Galaxy Macau features several gaming areas that stretch across a floor area equivalent to three football fields, 3 hotels with some 2,200 rooms, 50 restaurants and the world’s largest rooftop wave pool. Later this year, they plan to roll out a 9-screen, 3-D cinema and 1,000 square meter coliseum.
“Galaxy Macau has been designed with world-class facilities to leverage on the Central Government’s 5-year plan to position Macau as an international travel and leisure destination,” Lui said through an interpreter.
“We’ll introduce more attractions in the future that combine Chinese culture with modern technology. It’s intended to bring the best of Chinese culture to the international markets,” he added.
As the article goes on to note, since the Macau government continues to withhold approval for new projects and limit the number of new gambling tables as part of its effort to reduce its reliance on gaming, the Galaxy Macau looks like it’s at the right place at the right time. The Galaxy will be the only new casino to open in Macau this year, and given Beijing’s current efforts to boost domestic consumption, Lui Che Woo’s entertainment and leisure-focused resort stands to benefit. Now we’re just waiting to see what kinds of shows Lui decides to offer. Considering the significant investment made on entertainment by the City of Dreams, the pressure is on.