The details in a proposal to develop Hengqin as a tourism island, and so complement neighbouring Macau’s tourism effort, have been approved by China’s State Council, said the country’s National Development and Reform Commission in a notice published on the latter’s official website on Thursday.
The notice, dated April 9, was addressed to the government of Guangdong, the mainland Chinese province next door to Macau, and various departments under the State Council.
The national authorities envisage Hengqin as an international destination for leisure and tourism, via non-gaming attractions. A few have been developed, such as the Chimelong theme park (pictured in a file photo); some are being developed, and some are still in the planning or fund-raising stage. Hengqin, part of mainland China’s territory, is next door to Macau. A highway and bridge links the island to Macau’s Cotai district, the latter the location for most of Macau’s newest large-scale gaming resorts.
The Hengqin proposal noted a number of annual milestones in relation to turning the island into a tourism hub, according to the notice published by the National Development and Reform Commission. The document noted that – by next year – the aim was to have improved transport connectivity between Hengqin, Macau and Hong Kong, with the goal that tourism and leisure business would be Hengqin’s economic pillar.
But it was likely to be the year 2025, before changes were implemented to improve the convenience of making the border crossing between Macau and Hengqin, according to the proposal, which also envisages the island cooperating with Macau and Hong Kong in creating multi-destination package trips for travellers. The range of services that might available via Hengqin would include meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE); “medical care”; and cruise tourism. By 2035, tourism and leisure business should play a leading role in Hengqin’s economy via what the paper referred to as eco-tourism offerings and more mature supporting amenities for tourism.
The set of proposals also mentioned Hengqin’s goal of having a “seamless” transport connection between it and Macau, and the value of exploring an option to allow Macau tourist coaches to be able to pick up and drop off tourists – via the Hengqin border – at various major attractions on that island. The document also mentioned offering support and advice in multiple foreign languages, to help visitors from outside the Greater China region.
Another direction for Hengqin to seek cooperation with Macau and Hong Kong was to explore a “cross-border” helicopter service, the proposal noted.
Cheng Wai Tong, deputy director of Macao Government Tourism Office, remarked to Macau media on Thursday that he believed Hengqin’s goal of developing as a tourism island could complement Macau’s tourism offer, namely the latter’s casino resorts and historical heritage sites. But Mr Cheng noted that an easing of visa formalities between Macau and Hengqin would probably be needed for Hengqin to attract more non-Chinese tourists.
Francis Lui Yiu Tung, deputy chairman of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd – which plans a large-scale non-gaming investment on Hengqin – mentioned in a keynote speech to Global Gaming Expo Asia 2017, a casino industry trade show and conference held in Macau, the idea of “borderless” travel between Hengqin and Macau.
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Lei Wai Nong
Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance