National Geographic Ultimate Explorer Hengqin, a new indoor entertainment zone geared towards family visitors, was launched on Monday on Hengqin island next door to Macau. The attraction is part of the CNY5.45-billion (US$792 million) first phase of Novotown, a major development focused on non-gaming tourism.
Hengqin is one of the pieces of mainland China territory closest to Macau’s gambling hub. Hong Kong’s Lai Sun Group is the lead developer of the Novotown scheme.
An indoor theme park called Lionsgate Entertainment World was launched at Novotown on July 31. It features attractions based on some of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises.
According to a press release issued on Monday on behalf of National Geographic Ultimate Explorer Hengqin, the newly-launched entertainment centre has an area of 4,500 square metres (14,764 sq feet) and offers about “15 experiences” geared towards children aged six to 12 and their families. The attractions – under a licence agreement with National Geographic Partners LLC – are based on themes that explore space, nature and science.
Hengqin, also known as Hengqin New Area, and part of mainland China’s Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone, aims to attract inward investment from overseas as well as from local sources.
The launch of the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer had the endorsement from Hengqin officials. Gu Guangxin, deputy director of the Administrative Committee of Hengqin New Area, said at the launch: “By positioning Hengqin as the epicentre of family-friendly fun, we are providing travellers with more choices than ever, while also helping to foster the continued diversification of Macau’s economy.”
In April, Cheng Wai Tong, deputy director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, told Macau media 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. That month, it had been announced that China’s State Council had approved a plan to make Hengqin an “island for international leisure and tourism”.
Voices in Macau’s gaming industry have suggested an easing of border formalities between Hengqin and Macau should be encouraged in order to boost tourism trade between the places.
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"The travel impediments [in mainland China] will lead to reduced visitation into Macau for the next few weeks at least, with Chinese New Year visitation being impacted"
Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Kelsey Zhu
Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd