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Living the American Dream - in Macau

Interview - February 1, 2012
Reggie Martin, Vice-Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Macau, discusses Macau’s progress, and the strength of its relationship with the U.S.

How do you explain the growing and resilient economy of Macau, while the world is facing its worse economic downturn?

My opinion is Macau will directly benefit from China’s expanding economy. China is currently the second largest economy (by GDP) in the world.  It has been the world's fastest-growing major economy, with consistent growth rates over the past 30 years. If you look at some of the world’s other large economies, the Chinese economy has been resilient in a world of the global economic crisis since 2008. As the global economy recovers, China’s economic growth is likely to remain strong, reflecting PRC government spending and development of the inland provinces. Leading economicresearch forecasts China’s economic growth to reach over 8.7% for 2011. Long-term, economic growth in China is expected to help sustain and fuel the development of Macau as the mass entertainment and leisure hub in the Pan Pearl River Delta.

What would you say is the magic in Macau, and the magic for the US?

Despite all its shortcomings, Macau has been blessed with the rich endowment of a unique historical and cultural heritage. It is even more comforting to know that such a blessed endowment is not to be found anywhere else in the region. It can be considered the enclave's strongest asset and comparative advantage as a highly competitive entity in the Pearl River Delta region. USA is magical to me for two important reasons: diversity and freedom of speech.

The US is Macau´s biggest foreign investor and one of it´s main trade partners. A lot of US companies are based here supporting the development of Macau. At other levels, the US is cooperating in policies and diplomatic dialogue…

What do you think the US can bring to Macau and vice versa? 

I think both countries are doing a fantastic job at promoting each other already, working hand in hand at promoting tourism to each country!  You have many US-based casinos, restaurants and entertainment companies here in Macau, which are being promoted in both countries; I think it is really a harmonious situation.

With this scenario, and the increasing importance of bilateral cooperation between East and West, where would you like to see future cooperation between the two countries? 

Well I’m not a politician, and do not know half the things that go on in meetings between China and the US, but it would be great in my opinion to see both countries loosen up on their immigration policies with each other!

As you know, gaming and tourism are the main sources of revenue for Macau. However, the demand comes mostly from Mainland China, and the govmt is trying to diversify to overseas…

In this scenario, what would you say is the potential in US tourist?

I think the potential is very positive, as far as American tourists wanting to come to Macau to see all the great things Macau has to offer!

How can Macau attract those two million Americans that are coming every year to China? 

I think it is just a matter of awareness.  I still talk to a lot of Americans who do not know of Macau, especially if they are not into gambling. My opinion is that it’s important to just get the word out to the mass of Americans about how culturally and historically rich this country is – and how it has great international entertainment with concerts, sports, tradeshows, great food, shopping, and more.

How can Macau brand itself differently than Las Vegas? 

I would say it has already branded itself quite well. A huge area of the Macau peninsula has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and over 20  buildings and sites within the area have been deemed to have cultural and historic significance. So I would say culturally and historically, it has its own identity.

Today, MICE, showbiz, spectacles and arts in Las Vegas represent the same amount of income than the casinos and gaming. Would Macau follow their example in this moderate diversification scheme? 

I think we, as a whole, Macau would like to see in the near future more MICE, and more international shows!  We are striving to make Macau more then just a gaming destination, but a place where you can come with your family to watch great shows, eat some good traditional food and enjoy the heritage spots in town!

The American Chamber of Commerce was founded in 2007 with the objective to promote more dialogue between the US and Macau. What were the specific reasons behind this decision?
 We, the founding members, thought it was the right time to have an American Chamber of Commerce in Macau because we felt that American-based corporations establishing themselves in Macau needed the kind of help we could provide – insight and business connectivity that is unrivalled. AmCham stands at the forefront of development in Macau. 

What are the biggest events, and the biggest plans? 

By far, the biggest event of the year is our annual AmCham Ball which brings socialites, corporate executives, politicians and the community together for a night of fun and networking with each other. I must say, people look forward to our AmCham Ball every year!  This year our ball was Motown-themed and we had the pleasure to have Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review to come perform;  it will be very difficult next year to top that one! 
You have been the person in charge of taking care of VIPs and celebrities in Macau, from USA Dream Team with Kobe Bryant to Black Eyed Peas…How do you feel your responsibility in terms of helping Macau´s plans?

I feel very devoted and also have a huge responsibility in making that happen, having been here for over 10 years; I feel obligated to be part of the growing success in Macau!  The Macau government is doing a fantastic job bringing events that diversify Macau, like the Macau Grand Prix, food festivals and world trade shows!

What would you say has been your biggest contribution to both Macau and your hometown? 

I would say it’s giving back to both communities. I’ve started the  Reggie Martin  Education & Empowerment Foundation for Youth, which will be based out of my hometown of East Chicago, and hopefully coming to Macau in the near future!  In Macau, with AmCham, I have been doing many community events, such as the 4th of July BBQ, charity balls and events with schools, like motivational talks and recreational events with students!

Of course I’m blessed to be a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Macau, but to have received the Key to the City of East Chicago is a dream come true for me; not many people can say they have received the key to their city. I thank Mayor Anthony Copeland and the whole city of East Chicago for showing me a lot of love and support; I owe a lot to my city and will continue to do my part in my hometown!

As we have said before, this interview is about living the American dream in Macau… With this in mind, what would be your final message to the American people?

“God Bless America and Macau” is my message to both countries because both are my home! What should people know about Macau?  Macau is a place of harmony, where East meets West and where dreams come true!