4 questions for Ruth Boston, Sands Resorts Macao

Macau’s tourism industry took a hit following the 2013 launch of China’s anti-graft campaign when Chinese businesses feared trips to the casino-laden destination would be viewed as junkets by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration. Four years later, Macau (an autonomous region of China located across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong that's also known as Macao) has successfully created another set of visitor experiences with the intent of attracting more leisure business to the destination. Already, the Macao Government Tourism office reported that the region welcomed more than 20 million visitors from mainland China in 2016, up 0.2 percent year-over-year.

Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao has been an integral part of that transformation as the group bolstered its entertainment, retail and dining offerings and, in September, debuted 3,000-room Parisian Macao. Here, Ruth Boston, SVP, marketing and brand management, tells HOTEL MANAGEMENT how Sands Macao, with seven luxury and family-focused hotels, has played a role in the destination’s renaissance.

1. Who is the new Chinese traveler coming to Macau and has the shift also caused a shift in rates?

Our research shows that our Chinese travelers are increasingly sophisticated and looking for luxury experiences, be that a hotel stay or retail shopping experience. Agewise, the vast majority of our Chinese customers are under 40 and welcome the opportunity to travel the world. 

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We have also seen an increase in the family travel market and they often travel with extended family i.e. grandparents. This market perceives Macao as a convenient destination for short stays and we enjoy a lot of repeat visitors to our resorts.

Since new properties have opened on the Cotai Strip over the past 18 months, the market is increasingly competitive and we need to not only provide competitive rates but also value for money for Chinese travelers.

2. Has any of the success in achieving this new demographic due to—at least in part—stealing market share from other Asian destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore?

One of the reasons for our success is that Macao as a destination is easy to access whether it be by air, ferry or even rail travel to Zhu Hai.  Both the airport and the new Taipa Ferry Terminal, which opened early June, are conveniently located just five minutes from our resorts. So it is much easier to travel to Macao, especially with direct flights from mainland China and also Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. While Hong Kong and Singapore are relatively mature markets, Macao is still perceived as a new market with new hotels and resorts continuing to open up along the Cotai Strip. 

3. How have Sands’ resorts reinvented themselves to attract this new demographic?

Our integrated resort encompasses seven hotels including The Venetian Macao, which will mark its 10th anniversary in August, along with Four Seasons Macao, Sheraton Grand Macao, Conrad Macao, Holiday Inn Macao and the St Regis Macao. Thus we are able to appeal to both the luxury and the family market, and all hotels are linked by walkways.

Last September, we opened the 3,000-room Parisian Macao, the crown jewel of our chairman Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson’s vision for the Cotai Strip in Macao. It is home to meeting space, international restaurants, a kid’s club and themed water park, a 1,200-seat theater and a half-size scale Eiffel Tower. Shoppes At Parisian offers 170 stores, including luxury fashion brands and more than 40 brands new to Macao, including Sonia Rykiel and Zadig & Voltaire.

After the success of The Venetian Macao, we found that themed resorts are very popular with the Asian market and particularly our Chinese customers; hence, Mr. Adelson’s dream for creating a Parisian themed resort was a logical step.

In addition, Sands Resorts Macao continuously strives to bring new entertainment to our integrated resorts, including the opening of the Sands Cotai Theater earlier this year where the new production of the Chinese fable Monkey King – A China Show, is performed. Our two other theaters at The Venetian and The Parisian, also feature Broadway theatre shows, concerts and special events throughout the year. Sands Shoppes is the largest duty-free luxury shopping experience in Macao, consisting of over 850 retailers at Shoppes at Four Seasons, Shoppes At Parisian, Shoppes at Venetian and Shoppes at Cotai Central, part of Sands China’s integrated resort and all under one interconnected roof. 

 

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4. Are Macau resorts also trying to capture visitors from other countries in addition to China?

Apart from mainland China, our key source markets are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and India and lately we have seen significant growth out of the Korean region. Over the past few months we have been directly engaging with these markets with a series of marketing roadshows to showcase the seven hotels in our portfolio as well as our entertainment offerings, retail stores, dining and our meeting and convention space. 

Sands Resorts’ approximate 1,600,000 square feet of meeting and convention space is a unique tool for us to attract mid- to large-size business from outside Macao. We have seen significant growth in this market in 2017 compared to the previous year. Most events are driven from within Southeast Asia, but we have also seen an increase from the U.S. market, which, according to the 2016 Macao Government Tourism Office report, grew 4.6 percent in the number of overall visitors to Macao from the United States, the only long-haul source market that ranked amongst the top 10.

Macao is also home to over 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which appeals to the many international visitors and Sands Resorts also works closely with the Macao Government Tourism Offices around the world at various industry trade events to promote the region. We also support Macao festivals and cultural events like the Macao International Film Festival.

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