Destination in Focus: Macau

Sheraton Macao Hotel's Corinne Janssen
Corrine Janssen, director of sales, Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central

Macau is a quintessential melting pot with it’s unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese influences. It’s also a destination of dichotomy — steeped in ancient history and culture, yet the embodiment of a modern metropolis, so much so that it’s often known as the “Vegas of the East.” Today, however, Macau is eager to shed its image as simply a gaming destination, and is evolving into a multi-faceted destination that is rich in experiences for meeting and incentive groups.

Like Las Vegas, Macau is a destination that continues to evolve. Last year, Macau saw the opening of its largest hotel ever — the 3,896-room Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central. Part of the massive Sands Cotai Central casino resort, the Sheraton Macao is also Starwood Hotels & Resorts' biggest hotel in the world. 

We recently caught up with Corrine Janssen, director of sales, associations, at the Sheraton Macao to ask her why Macau is an up-and-coming MICE destination for groups from the U.S. Here’s what she had to say.

Q: What makes Macau a great meetings and incentive destination? What can groups do while they are there?

A: Macau is not just a gaming destination anymore. This modern city is emerging as one of Asia’s most exciting entertainment centers and vacation destinations with a growing selection of gourmet cuisine, high-end shopping, and a selection of popular international live shows and entertainment. While visiting, travelers can enjoy a variety of seasonal festivals and events throughout the year including Chinese New Year, the A-Ma Festival, the Dragonboat Festival, and the Macau International Grand Prix among others.

Macau is also a unique destination to host large scale meetings as opposed to Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Beijing. Here at the Sheraton Macao Hotel, we offer 152,000 square feet of meeting space plus access to an additional 55,000 square feet within the Sands Cotai Central integrated resort. It’s great, whether you are planning a large meeting or several smaller meetings.

Macau is also an easy destination to get to. You can just fly from Los Angeles on EVA Airways or fly to Hong Kong and take a short 45-minute ferry ride over to Macau.

As Macau’s MICE industry matures, so have the related services and products available in the destination. One example is a new teambuilding activity that was recently launched. The iPad Discovery Tour is the perfect activity for corporate groups to discover the history and culture of Macau in a fun and competitive way using a combination of relay race and problem solving. Each team is given an iPad that contains clues to complete a treasure hunt. The hunt will take them to discover Macau’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and other locations where they will learn about Macau’s history and culture. Teamwork is required to complete the activity.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about the MICE industry in Macau.

A: The latest additions to Macau’s events facilities reflects the local government’s resolve to boost the territory as a preferred choice for MICE organizers. In Summer 2011, the government put the promotion of the convention and exhibition industry under its Macau Economic Services section, which set up the Conventions and Exhibitions and Economic Activities Development Department. With this in charge of stimulating development of the convention and exhibition industry, the implementation of promotional, supportive, and directional policies was centralized and reinforced. The government has extended its 2012 Convention and Exhibition Stimulation Programme to provide assistance and support for organizers and planners of conventions and exhibitions held in Macau. This includes complimentary promotional and educational material, financial support as well as free admission to selected attractions. The program even offers financial support for site inspections for potential events, providing roundtrip transportation expenses to and from Macau for up to four key decision makers planning events for at least 300 participants. [Here at the Sheraton Macao] we are beginning to see the results of these efforts.

Other developments that bode well for Macau’s MICE industry include ongoing projects near Cotai such as the Hengqin Development Zone in neighboring Zhuhai, where a portion of the island had been signed over to the Macau Government. In addition, the Zhuhai government is also creating a new financial zone on the island. The companies that will locate within these zones are expected to boost the number of business events and meetings in Macau. All these developments are expected to have a positive impact on Macau’s MICE industry in 2013 and beyond.
 
Sheraton Macao Cotai Central Exterior
The Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, is the largest hotel in Macau and the largest Starwood property in the world

Q: What are some common misconceptions that planners/travelers have about Macau?

A: Some markets perceive that it is difficult to get to Macau. Although we may not have direct connectivity, from the U.S. and Europe, Macau International Airport is now served by 23 international airlines and is only a 45-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong International Airport. The local industry has been working hard to change this perception.

Another perception is that of Macau as a gaming destination. However, Macau has diversified significantly over the last few years and now has a vast array of leisure and entertainment options and attractions to satisfy the needs of international MICE groups. The Macau Government Tourism Organization has also worked hard to put together a vibrant annual events calendar to ensure that there is always something interesting happening in the destination.

Q: Now that the Sheraton Macao has been open for almost one year, how has business been in the first year, and what trends have you seen among meeting and incentive groups that have stayed there?

A: Business has been very good, given the global recognition of the Sheraton brand as well as the great offerings at the hotel. In fact, the hotel recently welcomed its 1,000,000th guest!

Because the hotel is nestled within Macau’s newest fully integrated resort, Sands Cotai Central, it enjoys an enviable position, with instant access to all of Cotai’s exciting attractions including 119,479 square feet of retail, entertainment, dining facilities, and meetings and convention space. With more than 90 retail outlets, Shoppes at Cotai Central joins the Shoppes at Venetian and Shoppes at Four Seasons to offer a selection of 600 luxury duty-free stores — it’s the most in any one single location in all of Macau.

Sheraton Macao Hotel is gradually building its MICE clientele and we believe that the numbers are set to grow, especially with the planned Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge that will link all three cities by 2016. We’re confident that Macau’s increasing accessibility will continue to boost its growth as a MICE destination.

Q: What special meeting-centric features can planners find at the Sheraton Macao?

A: Sheraton Macao Hotel is transforming Macau’s MICE scene and raising its standing and profile as a leading MICE destination in Asia. The hotel can accommodate thousands of attendees under one roof, whether hosting large-scale meetings and events or small and intimate gatherings. 

Sheraton Macao Hotel has so many unique selling points. First and foremost, our management team is focused solely on the delivery of outstanding hospitality that is warm, caring and genuine.

Our extensive meeting space gives us the flexibility to host meetings of all sizes from small intimate meetings to very large ones. With almost 4,000 guestrooms, we are able to hold mega-size congresses under one roof, which offers organizers simplified logistics both in the pre-planning stage as well as during the actual meeting. Transportation to the meeting venue from the hotel is not required, so this can also result in significant savings, and delegates will appreciate the ease with which they can move between their hotel rooms and meeting venues, saving them time to catch up their other work or allowing them to have extra hours of relaxation. We believe that this adds to Cotai Strip Resorts Macao’s appeal as a MICE destination.

The Sheraton Macao Hotel also enjoys strong relationships with local event companies, professional exhibition and conference organizers, destination management companies, and teambuilding specialists to ensure clients’ expectations are exceeded.

Our unique “FIT” meetings enable attendees to perform at their very best both mentally and physically. Our FIT meetings were created in collaboration with Core Performance, a company that develops personalized and integrated programs for employees and corporations worldwide. FIT Meetings ensure that attendees are mentally and physically prepared while on the road. In addition to offering wellness tips, fitness and recovery tools, healthy dining options, and group workouts, the program integrates breaks designed to recharge the body and mind and focuses on four main ideas – Mindset (prepare for it), Nutrition (fuel for it), Movement (train for it), and Recovery (rest for it).

We believe Sheraton Macao Hotel is one of the few hotels in Asia with a dedicated team of professionals targeting the association meetings segment. This gives us an advantage over many other MICE hotels in the region. 

We will continue to rollout regular MICE offers to ensure that the Sheraton Macao Hotel remains an attractive proposition to our clients. Attractive offers include “Meet for Free,” “Successful Events Deserve an Encore,” “Work Now, Stay Later.”  We’re also working with the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute to attract events of various sizes from different markets, and with our sister hotels at the Cotai Strip Resorts Macao to attract truly large events that have needs beyond the facilities of a single property. It is first and foremost a destination effort.