Macao has been polishing the new image of city of culture, Costa Antunes, director of the Macao Government Tourist Office, said on Wednesday.
"The mixture of western and eastern cultural characteristics will be the uniqueness of the city, " the official told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
The international gaming hut has seen a boom in its tourism industry since 2003, when the Chinese mainland launched the Individual Tourist Scheme to permit travelers to visit Hong Kong and Macao under their own planning.
Macao, a city with a population of nearly 500,000, recorded 18, 711,187 visitor arrivals in 2005 and the figure is expected to surpass 20 million, said Antunes.
The blossoming gaming business has dedicated much to the strong visitor flow yet the city needs its image to be more colorful.
"We'd like people to know that we have the Historic Center, we have the ability to host international economic forums, cultural events and sports matches, "the official said.
Sure. The Historic Center, grouping scores of stylish architectures, gained the entry into the World Heritage List in 2005.
The city hosted the 4th East Asian Games, a yearly International Music Festival and a bunch of international conferences in 2005, helping bring in other groups of visitors apart from gamblers.
Things have been changing, said Antunes, citing the example that more tourist groups organized by foreign academic institutions came to visit the historic sites.
He said Macao has titled 2006 the Year of Heritage to upgrading the promotion on the Historic Center.
Some 16 offices based in overseas nations and territories have been busy advertising the Center, representing the Tourist Office, said the official.
"I plan to send more staff members to international tourism shows to do the promotion," he stated.
On the complaints about the high hotel room rates, the official said Macao's hotel business, with limited space and expensive labor prices, has to follow the market rules.
The number of hotel rooms is expected to hike from the current 120,00 to 23,000 in two years, said Antunes, adding that the enlarged capacity will hopefully bring the charges down.
Facing the challenges imposed by other tourist destinations in the Southeast Asian nations and regions, Macao has to carry on a practical attitude, said the official.
"Macao is a small city, with a land size of 47 square kilometers. We treated other tourist destinations more as partners than as competitors," said the official.