Macau’s SJM gaming marque could combine its decades of experience serving Chinese consumers with Japan’s service tradition in order to go about “branding Japan” via a casino resort in that country, a scheme also known there as an integrated resort or “IR”.
So said Arnaldo Ho Yau Heng, a son of Macau gaming pioneer Stanley Ho Hung Sun.
The younger Mr Ho was speaking on Thursday during the first day of the Japan Gaming Congress 2019 in Tokyo. The conference and networking event has been discussing Japan’s fledgling casino industry.
Mr Arnaldo Ho is a director and assistant chief operating officer of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau SA, the Macau-registered operating unit of Hong Kong-listed Macau casino licensee SJM Holdings Ltd.
Mr Stanley Ho had a 40-year monopoly in the Macau casino market, from 1962 until 2002.
His son told conference delegates on Thursday that the service expertise of the brand founded by his father was complementary to the Japanese way of doing things, meaning SJM Holdings would be a good fit for the Japan market.
“’Omotenashi’ a unique way of Japanese hospitality… should be emphasised and promoted in ‘Brand Japan’,” he stated in his presentation.
“SJM will be more than happy to share our wealth of knowledge and experience of gaming and non-gaming operations with the Japanese, while also learning the Japanese service culture in a humble manner,” Mr Arnaldo Ho added.
The Japan National Tourism Organization defines ‘omotenashi’ as stemming from that country’s tea-ceremony culture, and “representing the Japanese mindset of hospitality centring around care rather than expectation”.
Mr Arnaldo Ho also stressed what he claimed was the ability of the SJM marque to show cultural sensitivity in the Japan context.
“We have the ability to bring new values and ideas to Japan without compromising the local community and tradition,” he told the event delegates.
Referring to SJM Holdings’ Macau roots, he noted: “Coming from a city of cultural diversity, we understand the cultural differences and the needs of customers from around the world, especially Asia and China.”
He said the under-construction Grand Lisboa Palace – a HKD36-billion (US$4.6-billion) SJM Holdings-promoted Cotai resort due to open shortly – was an example of the marque’s ability to combine the best of East and West.
The Palazzo Versace hotel at Grand Lisboa Palace would be the “first Versace hotel in Asia”, and the Karl Lagerfeld Hotel there would be the “first and only in the world, fully designed by the legendary designer,” stated the executive.
China “will be one of our primary markets for Japan”, said the executive.
“Over years we have built up a solid relationship with customers and business organisations in China, such as the China Travel Service, China Duty Free Group and top travel agents and tourism institutions.”
Though he added: “We must not forget that Japan’s local market is an equally important demographic” in terms of recurring visitors and revenue streams.
“A sustainable IR [integrated resort] must tap in to these two primary markets,” he noted.
“Japanese visitors will seek new experiences that are not [currently] available in Japan, whereas Chinese customers are always looking to enjoy authentic Japanese culture.”
The executive pointed out the SJM marque had been the first in Macau to offer two restaurants with three Michelin stars each: Robuchon au Dôme and the Chinese restaurant The Eight, both at Grand Lisboa. A number of investment analysts have mentioned high-quality food as an important non-gaming attraction for Chinese – and Japanese – tourists.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China