Will Macau luxury shopping offset gaming decline?

Ultra-luxury shopping and dining are among new attractions at three mega-resorts set to open in Macau this year as businesses try to attract a broader range of customers than the traditional hardcore gambler.

The territory is increasingly depending on Macau luxury shopping and entertainment to offset the fast-declining casino gaming revenues.

Wealthy gamblers are steering clear of the world’s largest casino hub, the only place in China where gaming is legal. That industry has been hit by a long anti-corruption campaign by China targeting officials and politically linked businessmen, as well as the slowing economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy, reports AAP.

Retail’s fortunes in Macau are tied to those of the casinos, and as gambling revenue has tumbled, so have shop owners’ incomes. Inside Retail Hong Kong reported last month on the drop in visitor spending in the former Portuguese colony, where shopping accounts for 43.7 per cent of tourist spending.

Macau last month recorded its 24th consecutive monthly drop in gaming revenues, which have halved in the past two years. The gaming industry accounts for more than 80 per cent of government revenues, and official data this week shows that economic growth in the territory, which is home to 600,000 people, tumbled 13 per cent.

Macau is trying to diversify and reduce its reliance on the $30 billion gaming industry. Focus has shifted to tourists and recreational gamblers.

The next wave of casinos will focus on increased hotel rooms as well as retail and convention space, reports Bloomberg. By the end of next year, Macau’s Cotai Strip will have six more integrated resorts offering about 9180 guest rooms.

“The hotels used to be more of a support system to the casino industry in Macau, but now … the hotels and the rooms themselves have to be elevated in importance,” says University of Macau assistant professor of hospitality and gaming management Glenn McCartney.

Expected to open by August, the Wynn Palace will have 1700 guest rooms, and is the second Macau property for Wynn Resorts after the Wynn Macau, which opened in 2006. The $4.1 billion property, covering 450,000 sqm, will feature a 28-storey hotel, the first stop on Macau’s new light-rail system connecting the ferry landing to the Cotai Strip. An aerial tram system with air-conditioned gondolas resembling smoke-breathing dragons will carry customers across a 3.2ha. performance lake from the light-rail station into the heart of the resort.

Also set to open soon is the “seven-star” The 13, a $1 billion property for the super-rich, reports the South China Morning Post. It will feature 200 multi-level suites, each with the elevator opening directly into it. New York architect Peter Marino, who has created flagship stores for Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, has designed the hotel with a blend of 17th-century French renaissance and baroque decor.

The 13 has put down a $5 million deposit for the world’s largest fleet of custom Rolls-Royce Phantoms, 30 in all, to chauffeur guests.

Aiming to be in business in September, the Sands China’s Parisian will feature a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower with a viewing platform. The $2.7-billion French-themed resort will be the company’s follow-up to its nine-year-old Italian-themed The Venetian Macao. This mega-resort will feature 2950 guest rooms, a casino, meeting and conference spaces, a 27,870.9 sqm retail mall resembling Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Elysees and featuring 130 boutiques and more than 10 restaurants, and a rooftop terrace and pool resembling the gardens of Versailles.

Melco Crown, which opened the $3.2 billion integrated resort Studio City last October, has a new project in the City of Dreams Fifth Hotel Tower project. Occupying 150,000 sqm over 40 floors, it will be encased by an exoskeleton steel structure, the first in the world built in tower form. Inside will be a 40m. atrium looking up to the exterior façade, and panoramic lifts. There will be about 780 guest rooms, suites and villas.

Mainland Chinese still make up about two-thirds of Macau’s visitors, with the number falling last year for the first time since 2009.

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