Epic Michael Jackson tributes and the Eiffel Tower photo opportunity are among the new attractions vying with the mesmerising House of Dancing Water, Hollywood magic and more as Macau’s appeal to meeting and incentive organisers is ratcheted up.
September saw the opening of Wynn Palace and The Parisian Macao, adding to Cotai’s appeal as an entertainment district, but also bringing nearly 5,000 guest rooms onto the market to make around 19,000 rooms in the Cotai area alone.
While the properties offer plenty to delegates – from cocktails on Studio City’s figure-8 wheel to water-jet shows at Wynn Palace – the city has much to recommend itself in terms of post-conference activities, or an incentive programme that factors in Macau’s heritage. The city’s growing community of event management and teambuilding providers offer activities ranging from tablet-based treasure hunts in the old city to “Beach Olympics” in the heart of Cotai.
The Pokemon effect
Stuart Harris, co-founder and managing director of Team Building Asia (TBA), believes it’s the mix of old and new that makes Macau an attractive incentive destination. “Our clients like to explore the old Macau, and there are so many heritage sights to see as delegates tackle our challenges during the event.”
Many of TBA’s clients across Asia Pacific, including those holding conferences and incentives in Macau, are increasingly interested in CSR-related events. “Hole in One” offers such a solution with a game that sees delegates building a mini golf course from canned and non-perishable packaged food items before donating the items to local food banks.
Another activity that is proving popular is Go Team, a tablet-based treasure hunt. “It’s controlled by GPS and 3G technology, and we will add an augmented reality option soon, just like Pokemon Go,” says Harris.
Groups in Macau can also expect to see “Beat The Box” being rolled out by the end of the year, says Harris. Teams are required to plot their escape from a hotel room and have a limited time to crack a special code by solving mysteries to stop the countdown.
The Parisian Macao joins Sands China’s line-up along the Cotai Strip – the Four Seasons, Sheraton Grand, Holiday Inn, Conrad and St Regis. The 2,900-guest room and suite Parisian offers a new dimension to visitor experiences in Macau with a replica of the Eiffel Tower and gardens inspired by the palace of Versailles.
Venues include the 3,404-sqm Parisian Ballroom and seven meeting spaces across 592 sqm designed to accommodate everything from boardroom meetings to corporate events.
To coincide with its opening, a theatrical show created to celebrate Michael Jackson’s musical talents, “Thriller Live”, is being held at the 1,200-seat theatre Parisian Theatre until mid November.
Ruth Boston, vice president of destination marketing and sales, Sands China, says: “Groups can also enjoy unbeatable views from The Parisian Macao’s half-size re-creation of the Eiffel Tower from the observation decks on levels seven and 37.”
Acts such as the Streetmosphere entertainers, which incorporate French-style mime artists, singing gondoliers from The Venetian and characters from the DreamWorks Experience, additionally create a unique atmosphere at the resort. The Parisian’s outdoor event space, meanwhile, lends itself well to large receptions as it can accommodate more than 500 guests. “The open-air pool deck is ideal for private receptions, parties and corporate events while the pool deck features a heated pool, café, food kiosks and event space,” says Boston.
Out of this world
One tried-and-tested offering for incentives in Macau is integrated resort Galaxy, which has six different properties including the all-suite Ritz-Carlton and Asia’s largest JW Marriott, with 1,015 rooms. It recently invited Hong Kong MICE travel agents and Hong Kong event companies to join a teambuilding event organised in partnership with local event management company Smallworld Experience.
Attendees took part in a Beach Olympics activity at the resort’s Skytop Wave Pool, which can generate waves as high as 1.5 metres and is framed by a 2,000 sqm white sand beach that can accommodate 1,000 guests. Talent shows at the Broadway theatre and movie appreciation at the UA Galaxy cinema counted among the other activities.
Samson Woo, vice president, sales, at Galaxy Macau says China Rouge – its 1930s Shanghai style entertainment lounge – is proving a favourite for relaxed group get-togethers, while the Grand Resort Deck is another top draw for delegates.
The Galaxy Macau complex houses more than 120 F&B outlets and boasts the largest selection of pan-Asian dining in the city.
“Macau is a good choice for groups as it offers a good combination of sightseeing, shopping, entertainment and F&B. It’s also a politically stable and supportive environment [from which to operate] and it’s a safe city,” says Woo.
Long before visiting groups became enthralled by the entertainment of Cotai, the Unesco World Heritage-listed buildings of the old city centre on Macau peninsula were the draw, along with seafood, Macanese cuisine and a unique Sino-Portuguese charm.
To the delight of many in Macau, the magic of the city’s heritage can be rekindled as an integral part of incentive and conference itineraries. City landmarks such as the 90-year-old fortress can be factored into teambuilding and on Cotai, home to mega resorts, the old village of Taipa hasn’t been forgotten. Sands China has a covered walkway from the Venetian that brings visitors to the Macanese charm of old Taipa.
In the old town on Macau peninsula, groups can admire well-preserved colonial architecture left by the Portuguese, such as St Augustine’s Square and the Dom Pedro V theatre, or get acquainted with the city’s Chinese heritage, like its oldest temple, A-Ma, and Mandarin’s House, a 19th century Chinese residence.
Ruth Boston, Sands China’s VP of destination marketing and sales, believes Macau’s rich Sino-Portuguese history and Unesco World Heritage Sites provide the perfect backdrop for any event, and its location is another key selling point.
“Macau is in the unique position of being the meeting point of eastern and western cultures in Asia. Located at the tip of southern China and only 45 minutes from Hong Kong by high-speed ferry, Macau is an ideal location for international delegates with free visa entry for nationals from more than 70 countries and a local population that speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Portuguese,” says Boston.
Since opening in October 2015, Hollywood-themed resort Studio City has attracted groups seeking incentives with a twist.
“Incentives that have incorporated our entertainment such as [4D flight simulation ride] Batman Dark Flight, our figure-8 Ferris wheel The Golden Reel and [magic show] The House of Magic are most popular among our clients,” says Grant Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing, Melco Crown Entertainment.
“Clients can choose to host events in our al fresco gardens in front of the Golden Reel right outside the meeting salons, or at our nightclub Pacha Macau, which offers Ibiza-style nightlife,” he adds.
Macau’s hugest advantage is its location, Johnson believes, which is borne out by the numbers of visitors from mainland China, Taiwan and across Asia.
“The city’s rapid development in hospitality, entertainment and MICE in recent years – coupled with its beautiful world heritage sites – means that it’s got everything to accommodate the needs of any group.”
Another big debut for Macau in 2016 is Wynn Palace, a 1,706-room resort with a floral theme featuring grandiose flowery sculptures created by renowned designer Preston Bailey.
Event planners looking to impress groups can arrange for delegates to arrive at the hotel via SkyCab, an air-conditioned cable car that journeys over the eight-acre Performance Lake, where water-themed shows are held. Groups can sample Cantonese fare at Wing Lei Palace for the best views of the lake, while another culinary highlight planners may want to consider is Hanami, which offers a ramen menu designed by the world’s only Michelin-starred ramen chef.
“The unique character of Macau, which combines Portuguese history with world-class resorts, makes it an ideal convention destination for many. Business travellers can engage in sightseeing, spa, shopping and visit historical sites and museums.
“There are also lots of exciting events happening throughout the year, such as the Macau Grand Prix, International Fireworks Display Contest, Macau International Marathon as well as various cultural festivals, such as the Macao International Music Festival,” said a spokesperson from the resort.