A policy of diversification away from a reliance on gaming has been a stated aim of the government in Macau for several years. But after another record year for Macau’s casino, with revenues passing MOP 300 billion (GBP 24.5 billion, USD 38 billion) – more than doubling since 2009 when Fernando Chui Sai took over as Macau’s chief executive – how successful has this policy been and what attempt are the gaming companies themselves making to diversify?

One factor that could influence the process of diversification is the changing demands of the Chinese consumer. Speaking at the Asian Gaming and Hospitality Congress last November Ben Cavender from the China Market Research Group stated that there had been a shift in behaviour amongst Chinese consumers. He talked of “experiential consumer spending” (purchasing ‘experiences’ rather than ‘things’), with Chinese consumers becoming more interested in the quality of life and not necessarily on conspicuous consumption.
One gaming property that seems to be embracing this new consumer attitude is the Galaxy Macau on the Cotai Strip. 

The author spent a week at the Galaxy Macau last year and it certainly has the feel of a ‘resort’ rather than of being simply ‘a massive casino with a hotel attached’. There are several features that help to achieve this impression.
Firstly, there are three different brands of hotel incorporated in the property, catering for different tastes and different budgets – Banyan Tree, Hotel Okura, and Galaxy Hotel. There are also a number of amenities that appeal to families at the Galaxy Macau and the number of families with younger children wandering around was certainly noticeable, and slightly surprising, to the author compared to a visit to Macau a few years previously. 
The Grand Resort Deck in between the two towers includes the world’s largest wave pool as well as 2,000 square metres of sandy beach. A sizeable portion of the activities on the Grand Resort Deck are given over to children’s activities. The Galaxy also has a nine-screen 3D cinema showing a variety of local and international films for all ages of film-goer.
Of course it is not just Galaxy that is trying to capitalise on the shift in consumer behaviour. On a visit to the Venetian gaming floor, chatting to a floor manager he was keen to stress the success of the shows and exhibitions that were being hosted there. Over the road on the Cotai Strip at the City of Dreams the House of Dancing Water extravaganza is proving hugely popular. The City of Dreams also boasts the largest children’s playground in Macau in its Kids’ City.
One of the obstacles that gaming operators face in trying to offer a wider variety of non-gaming activities is that close on 50% of visitors to Macau stay for just one day. 
There are certainly reasons behind this, such as visa restrictions and the fact that the majority of visitors come from nearby Guangdong province and Hong Kong. If the average length of stay can be increased to two days or more it could be a reflection of this changing consumer behaviour and a measure of the gaming operators’ success at appealing to a wider audience. 
The IFT Tourism Research Centre (ITRC) in Macau compiles the Visitor Profile Survey and it reveals some interesting results as to the primary purpose for visiting Macau. Standing on any Macau gaming floor looking out over gaming tables as far as the eye can see, with people two or three deep around some tables, one would have assumed that gambling was most people’s primary reason for a visit to Macau. But this is not so according to the ITRC’s surveys. In recent quarters ‘shopping’, ‘cuisine’, and ‘world heritage’ have all scored higher responses among survey respondents than gambling.
On the basis of these survey results Macau’s government should be pleased with the variety of reasons as to why people primarily make a visit. 
But, of course, recreational activities such as shopping, dining in restaurants, and visiting sites of historic interest can never hope to match the revenues generated on the gaming floor. On Global Betting and Gaming Consultants’ recent visit to Macau we asked one casino executive what his greatest worry was for the future of Macau. He replied: “For the Chinese to wake up one morning and decide they had lost all interest in gambling.” 

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