The Macao Government Tourism Office heralded the Year of the Monkey with an industry reception, held at Sky Phoenix restaurant in Sydney. Guests were treated to a display of Macanese culture, including acclaimed photographs by Antonio Leong, which dotted the room.
Macao is always on the move, and the figures prove it. In 1999, the year Macao was handed back to mainland China, the former Portuguese enclave boasted 9469 hotel rooms. At the end of 2015, there were 32,608 rooms available, thanks in recent years to the opening of establishments such as the world’s largest Sheraton Grand hotel, Conrad Macao, Holiday Inn, The St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Studio City, Harbourview and Broadway, to name a few.
In two years’ time, this figure is expected to eclipse 50,000.
Despite the move to modernisation, the changes have been made without detracting from the Asian centre’s five centuries of mixed colonial-oriental heritage. For a former Portuguese settlement that thrives on restoring and showcasing its colourful UNESCO World Heritage-listed treasures and the traditional festivals and events that accompany them, Macao has a great deal more to offer visitors, whether they call on business or a holiday.
Of the recent changes to Macao’s makeup, many have centred on the Cotai area of reclaimed land linking the islands of Taipa and Coloane, where new ritzy themed precincts have evolved, complete with luxury international hotels, a diverse range of restaurants, cafes and designer label shops.
Event the entertainment programmes offer more variety with much more to come for families as much as couples and groups. Opening at Sands Cotai in June 2016 will be a new theme park – Planet J – the world’s first player-centric ‘Live Action Role Play’ theme park where players are immersed in the action.
Moves are also underway in historic Taipa village to create a festive atmosphere along the narrow lanes and squares with the opening of new restaurants and art galleries along with additional street performances near the lovingly maintained colonial-style Taipa Houses.
In recent months, Macao’s nearby Cotai area has seen the Hollywood-style red carpet opening of the Art Deco Studio City, along with the expansion of the nearby Galaxy precinct and the opening of the lavish St. Regis Macau hotel within the neighbouring Sands precinct.
In the latter half of 2016, Macao will see another exciting hotel addition, the Parisian, with the Eiffel Tower already in place for the yet-to-be-confirmed opening date.
In further expanding the Macao Cotai landscape, 2016 will see the opening of the MGM Cotai and the Wynn Palace which will house the highly acclaimed and stunning floral sculpture of a carousel, designed by Preston Bailey and on show in Las Vegas.
In 2017, the City of Dreams’ new hotel tower will open along with the highly anticipated SJM’s Lisboa Palace, a scaled model of project on show within glass in the foyer of the majestic Grand Lisboa on Macao’s peninsula. Both Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace have been signed to create hotels within Lisboa Palace.
Meanwhile, construction has continued on the above-ground multi-million dollar Light Rapid Transit light rail system, which will ultimately link each of these major holiday resorts.
On the Macao peninsula, home to a majority of the colonial churches and squares and Chinese temples under the centre’s UNESCO World Heritage protection, two new international hotels – the Prague-inspired Harbourview Hotel and the maritime-themed Crown Plaza – have opened their doors within the past 12 months.
Perhaps the largest project planned for opening within the next three years is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, which will span 35.6km and drive additional visitors to Macao.