The city of Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, located a one-hour boat ride away from Hong Kong in southeastern China
The city was a Portuguese colony from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it was peacefully returned to China, and it has held its special status within the country ever since.
The city has close and warm relations with the U.S., and American companies are rapidly learning about the benefits of investing, or setting up local offices, in Macau. The Chamber of Commerce of Macau was established in 2007 to help provide U.S. businesses with unrivaled insight and business connectivity in the former colony, according to Paul Tse, the Chamber’s Chairman in Macau.
“This has always been regarded as a unique Chamber of Commerce in the sense that American investment is a crucial part of Macau’s development – not just in terms of capital but also the experience of U.S. companies and gaming in Vegas. Some of the brightest people are bringing this experience to Macau, helping it build an industry that has been around for many years,” he says.
Indeed, the city is probably best known for being home to 33 casinos, and it boasts the world’s most lucrative gaming industry, taking in revenue of $33.5 billion last year. That’s more than five times the money Las Vegas casinos generated in 2011.
The casino industry is the destination of much of the investment in the city by U.S. companies, and there is already much cooperation between businesses in Macau and the U.S. that is proving to be very profitable for both sides.
“When we look at the American Chamber of Commerce we find a chamber that is very much integrated with the community and with gamin, one of the most important industries,” he says.
But there’s much more to the city than just luxurious casinos. It’s also a financial center and a tourist destination for travelers who want to enjoy its mixture of Portuguese and Chinese history, culture, architecture and cuisines.
“Macau offers a lot of entertainment, shopping and good restaurants – not just casinos,” said Dr. Manuel Joaquim das Neves, Director of Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. “But the government feels that it needs more to sustain the growth in the coming years. So, recently we decided that casinos will not play as great a role and we implemented measures to increase diversification.”
Its location at the mouth of the Zhujiang river, across from Hong Kong, means Macau also benefits from the region’s booming economy, where it is already well on its way to becoming the entertainment and leisure hub for the whole pan-Pearl River Delta.
Macau’s history as an international trading post and former Portuguese colony means the city also has centuries-old ties to other former Portuguese colonies and to Portugal that are strong and growing stronger. Macau is a base for many Chinese companies investing in Portuguese-speaking countries including Angola, Brazil and Mozambique.
“Right from the very beginning Macau was linked to the Portuguese speaking world,” said Manuel Carvalho, Consul General of the Portugueses consulate for Macau and Hong Kong. “There were always links between Portugal and Mozambique, Portugal and Brazil, so Macau has always had this sort of role, built on a very old tradition.”
The city inherited much more from the Portuguese than just good food and lucrative trading routes. When Portugal returned Macau to China in 1999, the Chinese government guaranteed the former colony’s basic fundamental rights including free circulation of people; free circulation of capital; freedom of religion; the right for Portuguese citizens living in Macau to retain their citizenship and passports and the right to continue using the Portuguese language.
Given all the city has going for it, it’s just a matter of time before more of the Americans visiting China add Macau to their list of destinations. Its new international airport makes it easy to get to, and the government is working hard to raise awareness and attract more visitors, and not just gamers, either.
“I want Macau to be a good place to visit, especially for families,” said the Gaming Bureau’s Mr. Neves. “There are many good things in Macau. I would like to attract families to Macau. We want entertainment for everybody.”