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Interview

João Manuel Costa Antunes, PATA Chairman, Director of Macau Government Tourist Office: We have now to look at preserving the authenticity of our destination

João Manuel Costa Antunes, tells all about diversity, quality and training, seen as the main challenges to a further thriving tourism industry in Macau.

Macau is one of Asia’s very own successful tourism drive. Is the job done?

João Manuel Costa Antunes: It is true that we received last year 28 million travellers, up by 12% over 2010. That was an absolute record for our industry. Paradox is that there is never a real time to rest on our success as we need to reinvent permanently ourselves. We neep to keep momentum with what defines the Macau destination product. And this is its uniqueness and its diversity. In one word, we have now to look at preserving the authenticity of our destination.

How to define this authenticity?

João Manuel Costa Antunes: This is of course in the product we offer. For many travellers, Macau is all about gambling and games. We first emphasized also the entertainment aspect of our destination, beside gambling. Our gambling facilities and casinos are increasingly turning into destinations on their own with entertainment shows, high quality performances and outstanding theme resorts. We also emphasize increasingly heritage and history in Macau. We look deeply at preserving this uniqueness, a fruit of a rather harmonious cohabitation between Portuguese and Chinese in this small territory. We use our heritage not only to revitalize Macau’s old town but also create art events with exhibitions, performances. We have for example this unique art district around Sao Lazaro Church with new museums and art galleries.

How is it also possible to reinvent Macau’s attraction with such a mature destination?

João Manuel Costa Antunes: From this point of view, MICE events and public events play an important role. The recently hosted First Global Tourism Economic Forum strengthens Macau as an international meeting place between east and west; events such as te Internattional Firework Festival, the Macau Grand Prix, Macau Music Festival or the Marathon are other important events in the calendar year which help to permanently generate interest for the destination.

Are they then any challenges?

João Manuel Costa Antunes: The rapid growth of our industry of course generates challenge. And one of the most acute is quality of the service.There is indeed a big turnover of staff and they are not always very knowledgeable about the product. We need to help training people to know more about the destination they are working in. We set up at our office a quality and training department. This department is not about creating a traning centre –we leave it to the private sector- but rather to establish a platform of communication with the travel industry, with retailers to look at issues and come up with solution to improve ourselves. We are however working a lot with school to emphasize the importance of tourism for communities and the necessity to please with high quality of services our visitors.

Are you optimistic that Macau will maintain its leadership in tourism?

João Manuel Costa Antunes: I am extremely confident. The new generation has opportunity to study abroad, to get also their own experience of travel. This experience will give them the opportunity to bring a more global knowledge to ways our city will respond to an increasingly sophisticated tourism demand over the years to come.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.

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