Sands China sees more MICE interest; bridge to help

Sands China President Wilfred Wong says he expects the opening of the bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai to trigger a significant interest in MICE business.

The long-delayed bridge, which is now expected to open later this year, will allow visitors to connect directly from Hong Kong’s international airport, which has about 1,100 flights daily compared with less than 100  in Macau.

“We are preparing for this new onslaught of of MICE business,” Wong said on a panel at G2E Asia. “In fact last year we have seen more regional conferences being held in Macau and this year we are seeing a lot more delegations who are looking for new venues other than the traditional venues such as the US and other destinations.”

Sands, which has the most hotel rooms of any of Macau’s six operators, stands to benefit most from any increase in conference business. The company has 90 percent of the territory’s convention space and 40 percent of the hotel rooms.

Last year, the company reported 950,000 visitors for MICE events. It opened its new property, the French-themed Parisian in September, which has given it a dominant position in the center of the Cotai Strip, with the resort linked to sister property The Venetian and Sands Cotai Central by a series of foot bridges.

“As a whole it hasn’t cannibalized any of our business it has created more of a clustering effect,” Wong said speaking about the Parisian. “People are walking between properties and immediately we have seen an increase in business at the Four Seasons plaza casino.”

Analysts and consultants say Macau’s MICE business has been hindered by access issues, but also by a lack of hotel rooms.

“We definitely need more hotel rooms,” John Shigley, chief operation officer of gaming at MGM China. “We need to have more rooms to accommodate the more casual customer who just likes food and drinks and shows. We also need the infrastructure to support it to make the whole process smooth fast and pleasant.”

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