Macao's tourist and gambling industry, which is well-known worldwide, will remain a leading industry of Macao after its return to China on December 20.
The Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) explicitly stipulates that Macao's existing capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years and the SAR government shall on its own make policies on tourism and entertainment and gaming in the light of its overall interests.
Tourism and gambling industry in Macao consists mainly of tourism, hotel, gambling and catering businesses and recreational activities, holding an important position in the economic structure of Macao. It provides more than 70,000 jobs, accounting for some one third of Macao's total employed population; and it contributes up to 42 percent of Macao's total output value, ranking the first in its four pillar industries.
The number of travel agencies and hotels in Macao fully indicates the prosperity of local tourism and gambling industry. Presently it has some 120 travel agencies, over 100 hotels and inns with more than 8,000 rooms. It also boasts over 200 entertainment and recreational facilities, including bars, dance halls and night clubs.
Gambling plays a principal role in Macao's tourist and gambling industry, with diversified species including lottery tickets, casino gambling, greyhound racing and horse racing.
The history of gambling in Macao can be traced back to 150 years ago. In 1961 the then government publicly sought the franchised right to gambling and the Macao Society of Tourism and Entertainment (STDM) obtained the franchised right the next year and has since operated the business up till now. In 1997 the STDM signed a revised contract with the government for the franchised right for the gambling industry, extending the contract to 2001.
Tourist and gambling industry entered a stage of fast development since the early 1990s. The opening of the Macao International Airport at the end of 1995 has afforded the tourist industry a new opportunity for development. In 1996, Macao received more than eight million tourists from outside Macao, a record high, and 68,000 Macao residents travelled outside Macao. ( more)
Over the past year, the gambling industry contributed as high as 25 percent to Macao's gross domestic product, and over two thirds of the revenue from the tourist industry came from gambling. Starting from 1996, the tax rate of the gambling industry has increased from 30 percent to 31.8 percent, and the revenue from the taxes of this industry takes up 40 percent of the government's fiscal revenues.
Apart from the tax contribution, the industry has also brought direct benefits to the government in other ways, such as providing jobs to over 10,000 people and financing in part the public projects, social charity and cultural undertakings. It has also benefited many other industries to a certain extent, such as the hotel industry, the catering business, transportation, banking and the construction industry.
In addition to gambling, the unique features of Macao blending both Chinese and Western cultures has attracted worldwide visitors.
"Gaming has played a significant role in the initial stages of the development of Macao's tourism industry. Yet, we have always had a strong conviction that Macao has more to offer to visitors than just gaming," said Maria Helena, deputy-director of the Macao Government Tourism Office. Only a greater emphasis on cultural contents can establish a distinctive tourism image of Macao, she added.
"The territory is unique because of our rich heritage accumulated over 400 years of the coexistence of the Portuguese and the Chinese," she said.
In addition, Macao is exerting more influence around the world by hosting a number of international events every year, such as music festival, art festival, fireworks display contest, Grand Prix car-racing and dragon-boat racing, she noted.
Ho Hau Wah, Chief Executive-designate of the future MSAR, said that Macao should make greater efforts to develop tourism, add new scenic spots and tourist programs, and reinforce tourism administration after its return to the motherland.
In the first nine months of this year, the number of visitors to Macao increased five percent from the year-ago period, of which the number of visitors from the Chinese inland areas doubled that in the same period last year. After returning to the motherland, Macao will enjoy a better environment for developing its tourism.
The principle of "one country, two systems" has been successfully implemented in Hong Kong, and horse racing, considered a typical capitalist way of life, is still on its track two years after Hong Kong became a special administrative region. There is every reason to believe that tourism and gambling will continue to be a leading industry of Macao SAR.