The Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) held a press conference and a lunch reception for the media and the tourism trade on January 12 (Wednesday). Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Dr. Chui Sai On, attended the press conference and delivered a speech. Director of MGTO, João Manuel Costa Antunes presented a summary on the work and achievements of the tourism industry over the past year and outlined the objectives and strategies for the year ahead at the press conference.
Last year was the 5th Anniversary of the Establishment of Macau SAR Government. With the great support from the Central Government and the clear strategies of the Macau SAR Government, Macau enjoys sustained economic growth and greater social stability and harmony. Under the clear objective of the SAR Government to develop Macau into a tourism and gaming, MICE and leisure hub, a series of new tourism and entertainment facilities have started operation or will be completed soon, creating an environment of opportunities and challenges in which Macau tourism can thrive.
As Macau develops its image as one of the premier tourist destinations in the Asia Pacific region, the Macau SAR Government will actively plan and support the holding of more world-class events to build Macau into a 'City of Events'.
Last year, the tourism industry of Macau has achieved appreciable growth, with over 16.67 million visitor arrivals to Macau, a surge of 40% over 2003. Among the total visitor arrivals, 9.5 million are Mainland visitors, who accounted for 57% of total visitor arrivals and have recorded a significant growth of 66%.
The further opening up of Mainland's tourism markets has brought about a structural change to the tourism market of Macau, and the strong arrivals from the Mainland has made Mainland China the key source market for Macau.
At present, over 30% of the total Mainlanders who visited Macau came under the 'Individual Visit Scheme'. By the end of 2004, statistics show that arrivals from the Mainland on 'Individual Visit Scheme' exceeded 4 million since its launch on July 28 of 2003.
Since the Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Co-operation and Development Forum held last year, tourism authorities from the 9 provinces and regions + 2 Special Administrative Regions of the Pan-Pearl River Delta are working on the overall tourism cooperation in the PPRD region. Through fostering closer cooperation and complementary relationship, Macau and the PPRD region can enhance their combined competitive edge by sharing resources and joint promotions.
At the same time, Macau will continue to strengthen cooperation with Guangdong and Hong Kong to jointly build a regional brand name in tourism and open up the market for high-end tourists.
To be an international destination, it is essential to maintain a balanced market structure. We will, in addition to greater cultivation of the Mainland market, endeavor to reinforce the promotional efforts in other major source markets including Hong Kong, China Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.
While exploiting the full potential of these priority markets, Macau will also keep a vigilant watch on the long haul markets in North America and Europe. MGTO has recruited two representative offices on the east and west coasts of the USA, and will set up a new representation in France in the near future. MGTO will also study market development in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
To ensure the smooth operation of the 2005 PATA Annual Conference to be held in Macau in April, the Organizing Committee established last year has embarked on plans, preparations and promotions of the event.
To add to the cultural and leisure tourism initiative, various tourism products such as health and beauty tours, sports and games tours and ecology tours will be developed to lure tourists of different interests to visit Macau.
In fact, 2005 is an important year for Macau's cultural tourism. With the great support of the Central Government, the " Historical Monuments of Macau" consisting of 12 architectural sites in Macau has been put forward for inclusion in the World Heritage list of UNESCO and confirmation of such status is expected within this year. Macau will continue its efforts in promoting 'cultural tourism' to make visitors aware of Macau's unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cultures.
A favorable tourism environment and high standards of service are crucial factors to build up the image of a quality destination. In this regard, tourism facilities will be continuously improved and brand new attractions developed, while on the other hand, the relevant bills will be updated to cultivate a healthy tourism industry under the combined effort of the trade and the Government.
To this end, MGTO has completed the amendment of the "Bill of Travel Agents and Tour Guides No. 48/98/M" which was published on December 30 last year under the "Administrative Regulation No. 42/2004". The implementation of these new regulations will facilitate the proactive development of the tourism industry in Macau.
The tourism industry must swiftly sense the pulse of the market. This underlines the importance of amendments of bills to ensure the smooth implementation of new tourism measures. At present, consultation on the organization articles of MGTO is well underway and MGTO will be restructured in line with current tourism trends to enhance effectiveness in administration and enable operation with greater flexibility.