Macau: A Successful Meetings Destination

SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS JULY 2006 The amount of development in Macau, particularly on the Cotai Strip, the key tourism area, is staggering. A total of seven resort-casino hotels, including three massive properties by major Las Vegas names, are in the works on the Strip. Another three leading hotel companies are planning to open a total of four luxury properties within the next few years. And if you're not quite dizzy enough, two theme parks will soon open as well as a cultural village, a host of retail facilities, and a science center that will be open to meetings. In short, welcome to Vegas, baby, Asia-style.

Essential Tool Box

Convention Facilities:
Macau Forum, two pavilions, seating 3,895 and 345, respectively. Macau Cultural Centre, 43,056 sf of exhibit space; two theaters, 1,108 and 389 seats, respectively. Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Centre, 19,375 sf of exhibit space; 10 meeting rooms, largest accommodates 1,600 theater style.

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For More Info:
Macau Government Tourist Office

The Big News
Las Vegas Sands Corporation, owner of The Venetian in Las Vegas, broke ground last year on the Venetian Macao Resort-Hotel-Casino, which will serve as the anchor property on the Cotai Strip, an area of reclaimed land that will mimic Vegas' famed Strip. The Venetian Macao (the Portuguese spelling for Macau) will feature 3,000 suites, 546,000 sf of gaming facilities, more than 800,000 sf of retail space, and more than 1.4 million sf of meeting and convention facilities. It is scheduled to open mid-2007. The resort complex will also feature a specially created Cirque du Soleil show, a 15,000-seat performance arena, and gondola rides.
In addition, several other hotels are planned nearby on the Cotai Strip, including a 1,200-room Sheraton, a 300-room St. Regis, a 1,200-room Hilton, a 210-room Mandarin Oriental (the brand's second property in Macau, opening 2009), and a 300-room Conrad, as well as a Four Seasons, a Shangri-La, and a Traders. -Sara J. Welch

Facilities Update
Scheduled to open in late 2007, the 600-room MGM Grand Macau will have nine restaurants and a wide range of entertainment facilities.

*Located on the Macau Peninsula, a 600-room Wynn Resorts property will have almost 56,000 sf of meeting space, more than double that in gaming areas, and will have a decidedly Vegas-like style. The exterior, in fact, looks much like Wynn Las Vegas. The hotel will open later this year, but part of the meeting space and two restaurants will be done in 2007.

*Not to be confused with the San Francisco attraction by the same name, the $150-million Fisherman's Wharf theme park will have close to one million sf showcasing the cultures of China, Macau, and the western world.

*The City of Dreams resort will house an underwater casino, three top-notch hotels, a shopping mall, and a 4,000-seat performance hall; opening date is undetermined.

Small Island, Legacy of Influence

While Macau covers just 16.9 square miles, making it one-third the size of Washington D.C., the destination is crammed with things to see and do. True, while I was there, some of the sights included the spots where development is in the works, so there isn't much there yet for the average visitor to take in.

But there is no shortage of interesting experiences to be had among Macau's existing attractions. First stop: the Buddhist temples. The A-Ma Temple and Penha Church are among the most famous, and both provide a clear window into the culture of believers. Incense is sold, and burned, everywhere, the latter house of worship holds several elaborate shrines created by the families of the deceased.

Next, there are many museums to choose from. For my money, the best is the Handover Gifts museum, where one can see the elaborate and beautifully crafted presents bestowed on Macau by other countries-particularly those in Asia-when it changed hands between Portugal and China.

But the best experience of all is soaking in the local culture. It is surprisingly easy to navigate much of Macau by foot, the people are friendly, and it's the best way to see the area's unique architecture and colors. -RK