by David Hummel
Macau has been growing more interest as an international tourist destination for quite some time now. It was right around when the Wynn Macau opened up in 2006 that the area truly started to become recognized as the “Las Vegas of the East.” And when this happened, people flocking to towering, flashing, Vegas-like casinos started to take notice of all the other interesting things Macau has to offer.
On the one hand, the casinos themselves are known for more than just comparisons to Vegas. For one thing, they’re even bigger. The Macau versions of The Venetian and City of Dreams are among the very biggest casino complexes in the world, offering size and scope that even Vegas can’t match. Additionally, these establishments still make the news for more specific and intimate attractions as well. The Sands Macau (another of the world’s biggest) has been profiled as being perfect for a destination wedding. Several of the area restaurants are known for excellent restaurants that are legitimate tourist destinations in and of themselves. In short, they’re establishments that go beyond gaming facilities.
It’s also that even with their variety of attractions, the casinos are far from being all that Macau has to offer. This is an area with a fascinating cultural background, having been effectively a Portuguese territory until 1999. European influence is still very apparent, and can make Macau feel at times almost like some of the old colonial towns of the Caribbean and South America. The Ruins of St. Paul, in particular, is a major draw for visitors – a gorgeous, ornate façade, once the face of a cathedral, that stands alone at the top of a small hill. These are the kinds of things that people see and enjoy even if they come to Macau for the casinos.
We mentioned that the Wynn Macau opened in 2006 and really solidified Macau as a budding “Asian Vegas.” The statistics indicate that there has been a clear, steady bump in tourism since about that time. Roughly 23 million people visited Macau in 2008; in the past three years, that number has been just above or below 31 million. Some recent reports, however, indicate that that bump might not be over.
Specifically, the beginning of 2018 brought with it a bullish forecast for the gambling industry in Macau, suggesting a two percent rise in gross gambling revenue this January. That might sound like a small number but when you’re talking about casino earnings, two percent is going to be a great deal of money. The implication is that the number of people coming to the area to spend time at the resorts is still going up. And for that matter, with the “Vegas of the East” getting steadily more popular, more people are hearing about some of the additional offerings – from special resort packages and events, to the actual cultural surroundings in Macau – as well.
In other words, if you’re looking to visit the area, you might want to do so soon. It’s only going to be getting more crowded.