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MGTO boss stresses Macao’s diversification from gambling in Bloomberg TV interview

‘Hopefully, going forward, we will not just talk about Macao in terms of gaming,’ Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes tells host David Ingles
  • The interview also covered post-pandemic visitor trends and the SAR’s evolving tourism strategy

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ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

In a lengthy interview with Bloomberg’s The China Show on Monday, Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes spoke of the city’s pivot away from promoting casinos and towards its unique cultural offerings. 

Fernandes acknowledged that the shift had made the job more challenging. “It’s not like before, when you just put up an advertisement and … they will come,” she told hosts David Ingles and Yvonne Man.

[See more: Macao bags first place in a Chinese Tourism Academy satisfaction survey]

“Right now, people are actually looking more in terms of content. We have to tell more about the destination, we have to give them reasons to come to [Macao].” To do this, Fernandes said MGTO was leaning into the city’s strengths. Namely, its many UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites and one-of-a-kind culinary scene.

Ingles joked that he would willingly give up some of his family members “for one of your fantastic and delicious pork chop buns.”

The Macao government’s economic diversification strategy is designed to wean the local economy off gambling revenue. “Hopefully, going forward, we will not just talk about Macao in terms of gaming,” Fernandes told the Bloomberg hosts.

She noted that visitors were already spending more of their money in non-gaming areas, such as shopping and dining out – a promising sign the government’s efforts were working.

[See more: Macao’s first quarter visitors reach nearly 86 percent of pre-pandemic levels]

Another change Fernandes described was “a softening of the big groups market” – comprised almost entirely of mainland Chinese tour groups. Back in 2019, about eight million people arrived as part of an “excursion group,” she said. 

Last year, that number was just 1.2 million, “which means the market is changing into smaller groups, demanding more personalised services as well as immersive experiences or family experiences,” Fernandes elaborated. She said that the trend had led to a recalibrating of the tourism sector in order to meet these evolving demands.

[See more: MGTO roadshow heads to Seoul to promote Macao to Korean travellers]

Fernandes also underscored the government’s heavy investments into attracting foreign visitors to the SAR, noting that more airlines and international flight routes were “gradually” making their way to Macao.

She told Man and Ingles that Macao was on target to meet the government’s target of 33 million tourists this year, up from 28 million last year – including two million from outside Greater China. She said she was hopeful the SAR would welcome three million foreign visitors in 2025.

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