Special feature – The MGTO place brand strategy

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Much more than a place of gambling, Macau has been officially described primarily as a center of “East meets West” cultural tourism.

Macau Business | April 2022 | Special Report | Macau’s Branding Challenge


The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) “strives to make Macau a diverse international destination that integrates sightseeing, entertainment, shopping, culinary customs and festivals and business travel, various ways. This could spur the diversification of Macau’s economy from relying primarily on casino-related industries.” This according to the authors of Understanding Macau’s destination image through user-generated content (2019).

Since at least 1999, this effort can be seen in the analysis of the promotional themes officially launched by the MGTO (see list on these pages).

A different question is whether this surge over the past two decades has been enough to achieve the goal.

“Compared to Hong Kong and other foreign cities, Macau’s image has not fundamentally changed,” say the authors of A study on Macau’s brand image (2019).

“This can lead to degradation or total loss of benefits over time. For a long time, Macau has been referred to as the “gambling city” and “Las Vegas of the East”. The quintessence of more than 400 years of Chinese and Western culture in Macau is somewhat overlooked and fails to be identified and appreciated by the outside world,” add Chi Fong Tang (University of Macau), Minghao Zhang (Waseda University, Japan ) and Jennifer H. Gao (Polytechnic Institute of Macao.

“In short, Macau lacks a positive, remarkable and civilized mark”, continue the three authors. “Hong Kong – the neighboring city of Macau – has already had its own distinct city brand for over a decade. Hong Kong branding was launched in 2001. A well-planned communication strategy was adopted to market the unique characteristics of Hong Kong to the world. The image of the flying dragon and the slogan “Asia’s world city” have become symbols of Hong Kong.

In other words, it is possible to identify several problems that limit the success of a tourist image dissociated from gambling: on the one hand, the weight of history, which has itself built an image old associated with Macao, on the other hand on the other hand, the lack of adherence of tourists to the proposed slogans.

“The most serious impediment to the rebranding strategy is the fact that the city has an existing brand as a gaming destination that attracts large numbers of tourists and generates solid revenue. Unsurprisingly, and as the respondents said, “gambling tourists are only interested in cultural tourism in a superficial sense, as an ‘appendix’ or supplement to their gambling visit,” according to key findings from a study by two Institute for Tourism Studies researchers, Joey Sou and Thea Vinnicombe.

Along the same lines, statements by WI Au (2016): “Despite the efforts of the MGTO Destination Management Organization to diversify Macau’s image from a place of play to a destination for leisure and MICE, accompanied by an “East meets West” atmosphere, Macau is always seen as the first in the eyes of not only visitors, but also residents. The cultural heritage, therefore, is overshadowed by the flourishing industry of the game, and this phenomenon does not seem likely to change in the near future.

These problems do not deter the MGTO: “MGTO strives to make Macau a diverse and quality destination, in line with the Macau SAR’s strategy to position and develop the city as a world center for tourism and leisure “, indicates the tourist office. Macau Business.

“While noting that MGTO has been working to promote Macau tourism as a whole in terms of iconic attractions, this office’s destination promotion work is carried out in collaboration with local business partners to promote products and city tourism services in target markets attract diverse sources of visitors. The MGTO cites as an example of “such collaboration” the “Macau Weeks” mega roadshows, “which were held in major cities across mainland China to make Macau a safe and quality destination and present the city’s “tourism +” offers. ”

Overall, the MGTO also explains, the city’s destination marketing capitalizes on Macau’s calling cards, namely Macau’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Historic Center and its status as a Creative City of Gastronomy of UNESCO, as well as its calendar of various festivities and events and its world-class tourist resorts with their wide range of offers, among other elements, “to attract different visitor profiles for a longer and more in-depth travel experience in Macau.

“MGTO strives to make Macau a diverse and quality destination, in line with the strategy of positioning and developing Macao SAR as a global center for tourism and leisure… The work of promoting the destination of this office is conducted in collaboration with local business partners, to promote the city’s tourism products and services in target markets to attract various sources of visitors” – MGTO

“Deepening regional cooperation for joint promotion of the tourism resources of Macao-Hengqin and the rest of the Greater Bay Area, under the project to make the Guangdong-Hong Kong Greater Bay Area- Macau, a regional destination, is also relevant promotional work that is underway and which should enhance the attractiveness of Macau as a destination,” adds the Tourist Board.

“Although everyone knows that Macau has a flagship product – casino games – and it is clear, the image is not desirable for some and is too narrow for others”, summarizes Professor Desmond Lam .

“I think the argument is whether we can diversify while still maintaining a clear destination image of who we are to our potential visitors and what we stand for. I think, in short, the question is not whether diversity is good or bad, but whether the positioning/image we want to project to the rest of the world (e.g. entertainment city) is clearly portrayed,” said the Professor of Integrated Resort Management and Tourism, University of Macao, tells Macau Business.


Two decades of promotional themes

The following list of promotional themes used by the MGTO over the past two decades “reflects the destination’s branding emphasis on celebrating Macau’s wide array of tourism offerings and its expansion over the years. years, while highlighting its essentials such as heritage, gastronomy, events and more,” according to the local tourist board.

Years Promotional themes
1999-2000 A legacy for the future
2000-2001 Macau welcomes you
2002, 2004 Macau more than ever
2003 More than ever, Macau is a festival
“Macao welcomes you in summer” (promotional campaign)
2005 A world of difference, the difference is Macau
2006 Macau World Heritage Year
2007-2010 Discover Macau (with the sub-themes: feel the difference, hear the difference, see the difference, taste the difference, touch the difference)
2011-2014 Touching moments, discover Macau
2015-2022 Discover Macau in your own style (with subtopics such as Discover Macau’s Gourmet Style, Discover Macau’s Event Style)
2018 Year of Macau Gastronomy
2022 [the MGTO is currently preparing to launch a new promotional theme aiming to renew the invitation for visitors to experience the variety of travel offers that continue to emerge in the city]

(source: MGTO)

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