Sands China’s Ruth Boston reflects on how the region has become a global player in the meetings and events sector.
Witnessing the transformation of Macau over the last decade has been a rewarding experience. What was largely a day-trip destination is now an international hub for business and leisure travellers — and a global player in the meetings and events sector. At Sands Resorts we take pride in the fact we have made a significant contribution to the Macau we see today.
While Macau [also spelled Macao] has the entertainment and infrastructure of many fast-paced cities in Asia, it is the cultural significance of Macau that resonates with many of our international meeting organisers. Aside from the modern integrated resorts on the Cotai Strip, Macau offers an opportunity to step back in time through its cobblestone streets, colonial mansions, tranquil parks, and more than 20 UNESCO listed sites, many featuring a unique blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultural heritage.
As Macau’s MICE market has matured, so too have the related products and services. Over the last few years, Macau has focused on building infrastructure to support the rapid growth of the city. Last year the new Taipa Ferry Terminal opened and later this year we will see the first vehicles arrive by road from Hong Kong on the new Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, making it even easier for conference delegates to travel to Macau in the future.
Since the opening of The Venetian Macao 10 years ago, much of our marketing effort has been focused on promoting the destination, both the Macao [Special Administrative Region] itself and Sands Resorts Macao on Cotai Strip. Macau has no convention bureau in the traditional sense, however we are fortunate to have a strong working relationship with the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, the government entity tasked with helping to develop the MICE industry in Macau through tailored promotions, trade show participation, and incentives for corporate meeting planners.
For meeting planners, our hotel and venue offerings are important factors in the final decision-making process, but we know that initial considerations often centre on whether the destination offers unique appeal. When we first started in Macau, much of our sales and marketing for meetings and events focused on educating customers about Macau — the destination’s UNESCO world heritage sites, delicious local cuisine, and unique blend of Portuguese and Chinese culture. While promoting the destination is still a large part of our sales and marketing efforts, I’m pleased to say that most people are now familiar with Macau, so we can put more emphasis on our properties and our meeting facilities.
Our campaigns are tailored to our key markets — both our media buying and our creative direction reflect the interests of our customers in those regions. For example, in mainland China we focus our marketing efforts on online and mobile solutions, with emphasis on social media engagement.
In other markets, like Hong Kong, print and outdoor advertising still have an important role in the overall mix, so trams and the [Mass Transit Railway] remain good platforms to help drive brand awareness and tactical campaigns. Depending on the region, celebrities can also add significant value to our messaging, just as in some markets, the traditional travel agent still has a part to play in influencing destination decisions.
The bottom line is that we approach our target customers and geographic markets differently. It’s certainly not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
In recent years we’ve seen an increase in MICE business from North Asian markets including mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, as well as from further afield including the U.S., Australia, and Europe. The strength of these markets in 2017 and 2018 exceeded our expectations and we continue to be optimistic about the future of Macau as a MICE destination.
Ruth Boston is senior vice president of marketing and brand management at Sands Resorts Macao. This article was compiled by staff at Untangled, a Singapore-based content, marketing, and business strategy consultancy.