It is possible for Macau to develop its profile as a sports-event destination as part of the local government’s economic diversification effort, but it might require the city to find a workable niche in an already crowded landscape, and for Macau to have an overall vision for how such activities would benefit the tourism sector. That is according to Ubaldino Couto, a scholar at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM).
“For sports events, it is particularly challenging as there are already many key events for different sports” in other locations, the academic noted in comments to GGRAsia.
“The challenge is to identify a niche both in terms of the sport and the event associated with it, as well as support from corporations, governments and communities,” he added.
Mr Couto, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Management at IFTM, also observed: “It is not easy to develop a sports event into something significant that brings in… benefits for and from tourism.”
The sport chosen must “attract” competitors “as well as spectators to come and cheer for their teams”.
Mr Couto mentioned to GGRAsia a research paper by Vassilios Ziakas and Donald Getz, the latter professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, published in the academic journal Tourism Management.
It stated: “The emergence of event portfolios represents a recent paradigm shift in the way cities and regions manage events.”
The paper added: “Rather than focusing on single large-scale events, attention is geared towards developing an array of periodic and/or one-off events that through synergistic effects can yield cumulative outcomes and returns.”
In June, Macau casino operator MGM China Holdings Ltd announced that in December it would stage – in collaboration with sports-marketing agency IMG – the inaugural MGM Macau Tennis Masters, with top names from the men’s and women’s game, and a roster of singles and doubles matches. Additionally in June, Macau operator Wynn Macau Ltd said in a statement that it would host, at Wynn Palace in December, a Macau Snooker Masters event, headlined by seven-time World Snooker Championship winner Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Macau already has a significant sporting-event calendar, with many elements associated with individual gaming operators. That was the case even before the local government asked the six casino firms to pledge collectively at least MOP108.7 billion (US$13.46 billion) for non-gaming activities and marketing to overseas customers, during the 10-year life of their new gaming concessions that started in January.
One of the operators, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, said in a statement to GGRAsia: “Throughout the years, Galaxy Entertainment has supported and participated in close to 100 significant international sports events and activities.”
This year, that had included the World Table Tennis (WTT) Champions Macao tournament, a gathering that had US$800,000 in collective prize money.
Galaxy Entertainment noted that it had been the title sponsor for the Macao International Marathon “for 19 consecutive years”, and had also been sponsoring the FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League Macao and FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix “for a total of 14 years”.
Macau Grand Prix already global
Galaxy Entertainment, as well as the city’s other casino operators, have also been sponsoring over the years races of the Macau Grand Prix motorsport meeting, usually held annually in the autumn.
Mr Couto noted in his comments to GGRAsia, that the Macau Grand Prix meeting – marking its 70th edition this year in November – was already an internationally-recognised and -celebrated event. The event is managed by the public sector, via Macau’s Sports Bureau, and the Macau Grand Prix Organising Committee.
The IFTM scholar said the Macau Grand Prix meeting’s reach “may not be as strong and far reaching” as the Hong Kong Sevens.
“The Hong Kong Sevens was founded only in the mid-70s and over the years it has garnered huge momentum and popularity in Hong Kong, regionally and internationally, particularly among rugby fans but also for ‘lay people’,” stated Mr Couto.
“This is likely due to the strong title sponsorship of Cathay Pacific over the years, which is a global brand and has a huge marketing reach,” he added.
Currently, sponsorship arrangements mean the event is known as the “Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens”.
Mr Couto suggested the notion of a sports destination required not just filling an events calendar with activities repeated from one year to the next, but also some coordination at a “higher, conceptual level”.
This included that the events should “align with the existing resources in the destination”.
As a newly-introduced event “builds momentum, it becomes intertwined with the destination – just like the Macau Grand Prix – attracting corporate interest, support from the government and a fanbase of spectators both locally, from the region and internationally,” observed Mr Couto.
Macau govt sees role as coordination
In comments to GGRAsia, Macau’s Sports Bureau indicated the public-sector role was mainly one of facilitation for initiatives from the community and the private sector – specifically mentioning the gaming concessionaires – rather than ‘big-picture’ planning.
The bureau stated: “In the process of promoting the implementation of non-gaming projects, the government realises that there is a need to provide channels to assist organisations, companies or individuals in participating in such projects, and to spread information to the integrated tourism and leisure companies for investment consideration.”
It added: “Therefore, a referral mechanism for cultural and sports project proposals has been established to provide more opportunities and social resources to the local industries.”
The bureau added that it, and the Cultural Affairs Bureau, “assume the role of referring proposals of related projects submitted by organisations, companies or individuals to the integrated tourism and leisure companies via the mentioned referral mechanism.”
The statement added: “Such proposals will be analysed and followed up independently by the integrated tourism and leisure companies according to their own business considerations and project implementation directions.”
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