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Macau to be leisure hub in a decade

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image Cirque du Soleil chief on TDM Talk Show

The territory is still “looking for its identity” as an entertainment destination, said the Cirque du Soleil company manager. But David Anthony believes “it won’t take Macau 60 years to get where Las Vegas got to in 60 years.”
In “maybe 10 years” the city will have a lot more to offer than just gaming, he said on last weekend’s TDM Talk Show.
“A lot of people compare Macau to Las Vegas today,” Anthony acknowledged. “But Las Vegas today wasn’t Las Vegas 60 years ago. It grew, it evolved and it changed,” he added.
“I think that’s what Macau is going through,” the executive stressed. “The best description is it’s a region going through puberty. It’s not what is used to be; it’s not yet what it’s going to be. It kind of knows what is wants to be but it’s still trying to figure itself out,” he explained.
“Part of that is diversification from being strictly a gaming enclave to introducing more entertainment, more restaurants, more options,” Anthony said.
The integrated resort model introduced in Cotai has made it to Singapore and is even being analysed carefully by other Asian jurisdictions interested in the gaming industry.
“I don’t think anybody can definitely say this is the right formula but I think Macau has been growing and evolving ever since the licences opened up and these integrated resorts started,” the Cirque du Soleil manager said.
“I think that for anything to grow and evolve you have to start moving in another direction, you have to start looking at other options,” he emphasised.

More shows

“In Las Vegas at the moment there are approximately 100 shows that are performed sometimes twice a day,” the head of ‘Zaia’ said. “Seven of those are Cirque du Soleil shows. We have one show that has been running for over 17 years,” he added.
The Canadian company was the first one to set up a major show in Macau – ‘Zaia’ – which opened at the Venetian resort in 2008. The USD 150 million (MOP 1.2 billion) show moved into a custom-built theatre with 1,800 seats.
“It all started with [Las Vegas Sands chairman] Sheldon Adelson’s vision of creating something akin to the Las Vegas Strip and the Las Vegas experience,” Anthony said. “One of the strong elements [of that experience] is obviously entertainment” and it will have to be also “the foundation of creating the non-gaming strains of Macau,” he stated.
Last year another Cotai resort, City of Dreams, launched the water-based show ‘The House of Dancing Water,’ produced by a former Cirque du Soleil executive, Franco Dragone.
“I would like to see every resort have a show,” Anthony said. “I think the more shows there are here the more it becomes a tourist destination not just a gaming destination, make it more of an entertainment destination,” he added.

Longer stays

The average length of stay of visitors remained low in the second quarter of 2011 at 0.9 days – a far cry from the 4.6 days average stay reported by tourists in Las Vegas, during 2010.
But with more shows “people can start to come here and not spend just a few hours on the gaming floor but come for a few days because there are a few different shows they can see and other experiences they can have,” Anthony underlined.
“Some form of entertainment in the resorts as they move forward building would be hugely beneficial to them,” he said.
“But it’s still going to take time” for Macau to became an entertainment destination, the executive acknowledged. “Prior to the economic crash I would have guessed maybe five to six years of development period,” he said.
But the global financial crisis – which led to the almost bankruptcy of Las Vegas Sands and to delays in the construction of Galaxy Macau resort – “kind of put everything on hold for a little while,” Anthony recalled.
“I think the plan is still there, it’s just perhaps a bit more conservative and a slightly longer timeframe,” he said. Macau will take “a little more, maybe 10 years,” to become a destination known for more than its gaming tables, Anthony predicted.

Zaia lessons

When ‘Zaia’ opened in 2008 “the first challenge was obviously the local infrastructure,” the manager recalled. After all it was the first Cirque du Soleil show to be produced in Asia.
“There wasn’t the technical expertise to support the show,” he explained. The company had to hire people from 24 different nationalities to work at the show, between artists, technicians and support staff.
But the show had a rough start and Sheldon Adelson complained about the low audience numbers, which led to rumours that the 10-year contract of ‘Zaia’ would be terminated earlier.
Cirque du Soleil eventually revamped the show introducing Chinese acrobatic acts and the lion dance, “which is a very localised element within the show,” Anthony emphasised.
“It’s about being aware of your surroundings, truly aware that we are not in Las Vegas.”
“I guess the first lesson is never assume anything,” the executive admitted. “One thing that we have learned over time is that just because someone is here to gamble it doesn’t necessarily mean they are here to see a show or to go to a restaurant,” he added.
‘Zaia’ is now looking to hire more local residents. “We’re hoping the universities and the government will support programmes that will now train technicians and support staff for shows of this calibre,” Anthony said.

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