Macau Expands

Asia’s top gaming destination beefs up its offerings.

By: By Jonathan Siskin

The Details

Macau Government Tourist Office

Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and is located about an hour away from Hong Kong via a high-speed ferry, making it an ideal day trip for clients staying in Hong Kong.

A Taste of Las Vegas in Macau

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation — a Las Vegas-based hotel, resort, gaming and convention company — has significantly influenced Macau’s development as a casino resort destination. Its venues in Macau total 165,000 square feet of casino space with more than 900 slot machines and 430 gaming tables, along with seven restaurants, bars and entertainment areas. The Sands Macao Hotel, for instance, has 51 premium suites ranging in size from 1,000 to 8,000 square feet with butler service, in-room saunas, Jacuzzis, massage areas and state-of-the-art entertainment centers with digital surround sound and multiple plasma-screen televisions.

Located on the premises of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s latest mega-resort, the Venetian Macao, is the 1,800-seat Cirque de Soleil theater where I watched a performance of “Zaia Cirque de Soleil,” a show of aerial acrobatics, trapeze acts and surreal dance. I also joined a group of fellow tourists on a gondola ride along a quarter-mile replica of China’s Grand Canal during which we were serenaded by a Filipino gondolier bellowing arias from Italian operas.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation


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Scroll down to read more about the Las Vegas Sands Corporation properties and the first Cirque du Soleil show in Macau.

A construction boom that got under way in the early 2000s has transformed Macau into what is known to some as “Asia’s Las Vegas” — that is, the continent’s number-one gaming destination. The rapid expansion of its tourism infrastructure was highlighted by the opening of a host of upscale casino resorts within the past five years, which has been further complemented by its glitzy entertainment lineup and nonstop nightlife.

Like Las Vegas and New York, Macau is a city that never sleeps and one that moves at a frenetic pace after the sun goes down. Many bars and discos remain open until the wee hours, while other popular night spots include pubs featuring musicians from Brazil, Portugal, Africa and every part of Asia. There are also ample karaoke clubs and hotels featuring cabaret-style performances.

New resorts, casinos and hotels make up Macau’s towering skyline.// (C) 2010 Macau Government Tourist Office

New resorts, casinos and hotels make up Macau’s towering skyline.// (C) 2010 Macau Government Tourist Office

Reaching Out
As the only location in China that permits gaming, Macau primarily attracts visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan (it is a three-hour flight or less for more than 1 billion people). While the U.S. is not yet a major market (approximately 180,000 Americans visited in 2009), the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) is seeking to increase the number of U.S. visitors with various trade and media campaigns, a specialist program for agents and fam trips for agents and tour operators alike.

“Macau is in the midst of a sustained period of infrastructure expansion accompanied by an aggressive marketing and promotion campaign that is steadily growing the U.S. market as both travel agents and clients become more aware of what Macau has to offer,” said Joao Rodrigues, MGTO media and marketing manager.

A Building Boom of Mega-Resorts
The debut of the Sands Macau in 2004 marked a milestone in Macau’s makeover as it was the first large-scale casino resort situated in the heart of the gaming district. The property was built by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the Las Vegas-based hotel, resort, gaming and convention company that remains a major player in Macau’s expansion. The Las Vegas Sands Corporation is also involved in the construction of a mammoth gaming resort complex, the Cotai Strip. The complex is located five miles from the city center and contains the Sands’ Venetian Macau Casino Resort (completed in 2007) and the Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip (completed in 2008). Twice the size of the Venetian Las Vegas and the largest hotel in Asia, the Venetian Macau extends across 75 acres and features 3,000 all-suite rooms; a 1 million-square-foot indoor mall with more than 300 specialty shops and 30 restaurants; an outdoor lagoon equivalent in size to 11 Olympic -size swimming pools; and a 15,000-seat, multipurpose arena.

The biggest news in the first half of 2009 was the June opening of the mammoth 420,000-square-foot City of Dreams casino. Situated across from the Venetian, the casino is just one element of a resort/casino complex that contains more than 2,200 hotel rooms, including an 800-room Grand Hyatt, a 300-room The Crown and a 300-room Hard Rock Hotel Macau. It also encompasses more than 3 million square feet of retail space, 2.5 million square feet of meeting facilities, a multimedia theater and an electronic aquarium with digital fish. More properties are in the works from top-name brands such as St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels, Raffles Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.

Staying Grounded
During my stay, I also stopped off at the approximately 1,108-foot-high Macau Tower, the tallest structure in the city (and one of the top 10 tallest buildings in the world). The tower provides spectacular panoramic views in all directions and has a revolving restaurant that is especially popular at night. Additionally, the Macau Tower has the distinction of being the highest bungee-jumping venue in the world. It also has a huge multiplex cinema showing first-run international films.

While Macau has morphed itself into a world-class casino resort destination with a sleek new look, it has also maintained strong links to its past by restoring and preserving traditional architecture that represents the oldest Western architectural heritage on Chinese soil. Many of these buildings, some dating from the 16th and 17th centuries — including the 500-year-old A-Ma Temple — are concentrated in the historic city center that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.