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Macao expecting big things in 2024 as tourism begins to flourish once again

Like its neighbour Hong Kong, the ‘Las Vegas of the East’ has begun to rebound to its former glory and expects big things in the next year.

Macao is ready for tourist numbers to return to their pre-pandemic heyday.

After three struggling years in international isolation, Macao has bounced back strongly to attract almost 20 million visitors so far in 2023.

The latest figure – until the end of September - is well below the pre-pandemic annual figure of 2019 which peaked at a record 39.4 million, but there’s an air of confidence that next year will see a return to greater numbers.

“It’s still early days as the market to allow international arrivals only opened on January 8 this year,” said Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) Director, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes.

“So far, the results are quite good,” she said. “Among the many active and planned promotions, we are working with airlines and cruise ship companies which use Hong Kong as a port to increase capacity into Macao.”

The world’s longest sea-crossing road bridge between Hong Kong and Macao (55kms) will help generate tourism growth.

The UNESCO Heritage Listed Ruins of St Paul's is one of Macao's many highlights.

The Asian centre already boasts 44,600 guest rooms across 136 hotels - and the figure will grow as the Cotai area expands. Occupancy has been running at almost 81 percent in 2023.

Despite the healthy return to business, international arrivals only accounted for five per cent of the market. Almost 19 million hailed from Mainland China and neighbouring Hong Kong (not listed as international markets) with Taiwan the next best.

Of the long-haul markets, the USA accounted for almost 60,000 arrivals into Macao while Australia reported more than 21,000, below the 2019 figure but a pleasing and promising result, according to Fernandes.

In a commercial move to help attract international visitors to the former Portuguese enclave, Sands Resorts Macao recently invited 200 global delegates from the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) market to “Rediscover Macao”.

The five-day promotion highlighted the capabilities and credential of Sands Lifestyle to stage large scale events within its integrated resorts – The Venetian, The Parisian, and The Londoner – with an overall capacity of 12,500 guest rooms across 10 hotels.

For motorsport fans, the Macao Grand Prix Museum is a snapshot of high-octane history.

The promotion also pointed to the many attractions outside the resort to attract visitors to Macao, which is UNESCO World Heritage listed for its historic sites as well as being a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy for its fusion cuisine.

Here are five suggested things to do in rediscovering the tiny enclave on the Pearl River Delta:

  1. Take a stroll through old Macao – where east meets the west - and see the historic architecture that are UNESCO World Heritage protected, from Senado Square to the surviving façade of the Ruins of St Paul’s and the nearby Mount Fortress which houses the Macao Museum. A short drive away is the historic A-Ma Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of Seafarers and the birthplace of Macao.
  2. For the green side of Macao, lace up the hiking boots and take on the marked hiking trails across outlying island Coloane. Reward yourself with a tasty Macanese egg tart from famous Lord Stow’s Bakery.
  3. Step inside the new Macao Grand Prix Museum, opened in time for this year’s 70th Macao Grand Prix. The museum replaced a much smaller version and traces the history of the street race event including the winning achievements of Australian drivers as Kevin Bartlett and Vern Schuppan. It’s a motoring enthusiast’s delight featuring a racing simulator and life-like Madame Tussaud figures of winning drivers alongside their cars.
  4. Eat and drink as the locals do on a walk through the narrow lanes of the old town. Call in on Café Nam Peng for snacks and tea before sampling coconut ice-cream at the family-owned Hong Heng store. You can also sample the Portuguese cherry liqueur Gin Jinha.
  5. Explore tiny Taipa Village, a stone’s throw from the Cotai Strip but in complete contrast for its restaurants, shops, and residential way of life.
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Written by: Mike Smith
Published: 20 November 2023

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