New Roll of Dice
Macau is working overtime to change its image. Following strict orders from Beijing for Macau to diversify its gambling-reliant revenue, casino operators have invested more than US$20 billion in an expansion that aims to position Macau as Asia's entertainment capital.
The result will be several new integrated resorts with fewer gaming tables and more leisure offerings, family-style attractions and event spaces. It's hoped this new strategy will also provide the perfect synergy for Macau to increase its reputation as a leading MICE destination in the region.
Part of this expansion will be The Parisian Macao, a US$2.7 billion French-themed resort set to open later this year. It will be the second mega-resort from Sands China following the opening of The Venetian Macao in 2007.
"The Parisian Macao, with about 3,000 suites and rooms, will complete Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao as the premier regional MICE destination with 12,000 rooms and 135,200 square metres of meeting and exhibition space," says Ruth Boston, vice-president of destination marketing and sales for Sands China.
"With The Parisian, we will offer 5,200 square metres of meeting and exhibition space that can be configured in several ways, allowing event planners to host meetings from an international conference to tailor-made banquets of scales and themes of their choice."
Another of the resort's key advantages will be a bridge linking it via a covered walkway to The Venetian Macao and Sands Cotai Central, enabling the group to offer the most event space of any operator in the city.
"There are also elements that will make The Parisian truly unique, such as the half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower with an observation deck and restaurant and the Parisian-style 'streetmosphere' entertainers," Boston says.
While event space and number of rooms remain key advantages for Sands China, other operators are pursuing different strategies and selling points but remain equally optimistic and confident in Macau's ability to win new MICE business.
Studio City opened in October 2015 and is a US$3.2 billion movie-themed art-deco property. It boasts several multimillion-dollar attractions including Asia's highest Ferris wheel, a 4D Batman ride and a 300-seat magic theatre.
"The entertainment attractions really differentiate us and we know that's a unique selling point, so we try to create lots of options for our MICE clients around those attractions," says Grant Johnson, vice-president of sales and marketing.
Key to Studio City's strategy is to use its entertainment offerings to offer MICE clients something a little more innovative and creative that gets them out of the ballroom.
"When we built this property, we knew that the trend with customers is that they eventually want to get out of the ballroom," Johnson says. "We think it's important for delegates that they have in integrative resorts lots of opportunities for entertainment around the event. So what we've tried to do is pair a lot of our attractions here at Studio City with a MICE offering."
Some packages include a Batman theme that invites delegates to ride the resort's Batman 4D ride. Later they are invited to a gala dinner in a Wayne Manor-style ballroom, named after the famous Wayne Manor featured in the Batman films.
Then there's a Great Gatsby night that "really fits well with the decor of our ballroom and our art deco property", Johnson explains. "It brings some of the elements from The Great Gatsby movie to life for our delegates. We have a swing band and we've had our guests dress up in Gatsby-style costumes. It's a theme we recommend to clients because it really fits with the overall DNA of our property."
Alongside the many new attractions, event spaces, gourmet restaurants and high-end shopping parades shaping Macau as a vacation destination, one of its key advantages over other cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing is its ability to host large meetings under one roof.
"There's more room available in Macau than ever before and so I think Macau is becoming more competitive with regards to how many rooms we can offer and the value that we can offer," Johnson says.
With the soon-to-be-completed ferry terminal in Taipa, more flights and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Macau is set to become more accessible and continue its winning streak, at least when it comes to MICE business.
Caption: Studio City has attractions including Asia's highest Ferris wheel, a 4D Batman ride and a 300-seat magic theatre.; Grant Johnson; LEFT: The Parisian Macao; BELOW: Studio City ballroom with Buddhism theme; Ruth Boston