Galaxy Entertainment Group Deputy Chairman Francis Lui has warned that Macau risks becoming irrelevant in the face of growing competition unless greater government assistance is provided via headline events, reduced tax rates and better regional utilization.
Citing the example of Atlantic City in the US, which paid the price for a lack of re-investment into better infrastructure and entertainment offerings, Mr Lui said he supports the government’s call for greater diversity but said Macau must think outside the box if it truly hopes to become a global tourism hub.
In particular, he pointed to the Australian city of Melbourne as an example of broadened tourist appeal.
“When Melbourne found itself in economic recession, it turned itself into the events capital of Australia,” Mr Lui said during his keynote address to launch G2E Asia 2017 on Tuesday.
“Melbourne drove its economic growth by attracting events such as the Australian Open tennis, Formula 1 grand prix, Twenty20 cricket and Melbourne Racing Carnival. Every week Melbourne hosts world-class events and I encourage Macau to do the same to boost tourism.”
Mr Lui also proposed borderless entry between Macau and neighbouring Hengqin – a 100-square kilometre island which is home to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park. More theme parks and family attractions will follow in the next few years.
“We encourage borderless entry between Macau and Hengqin so that all visitors to Macau can access the amenities it has to offer and freely return to Macau,” he said. “This would make Macau a more compelling family market.
“It would be like having Las Vegas and Orlando next to one another rather than 2,000 miles apart.”
Mr Lui warned that although its regional rivals would become a greater threat over time, Macau’s biggest competition was itself. As a result, the government should consider reviewing the current 39% tax rate while also exploring opportunities to utilize the 85,000 square kilometres of surrounding water Macau has jurisdiction over in the Greater Bay area, he said.
However, Mr Lui pointed to the greatest opportunities for Macau coming from China’s Central government.
“I believe that if we, as operators, act responsibly, we will benefit greatly from the government’s anti-corruption drive and increase transparency,” he said.
“We need to clearly demonstrate to the Central Government that we support responsible gaming and that we are committed to developing Macau’s non-gaming facilities.
“Currently there are 49 cities in China under the Individual Visitor Scheme (IVS) but there are more than 200 cities with a population of more than one million people. If we show our commitment to supporting the government’s policy it will provide the greatest opportunity of the government increasing the number of cities under the IVS travel scheme.”