While the Chinese government is in no rush to legalize gambling in the country outside of Macau (the most lucrative gambling destination in the world), that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in the currency burning a hole in the pockets of Macau’s tourists.
Leisure Hub with Amusement Park
In order to get their hands on a little – or a lot – of that cash, a new leisure hub is set to partially open on the island of Hengqin next month, with the hopes that tourists visiting nearby Macau will make the trip to the resort and spend a little of their winnings, or cut their losses, at the new destination.
Chimelong, which is located on a southern island next to Macau, is set to become China’s answer to Orlando at a cost of $5 billion, which has been spent developing a theme park complete with a mega rollercoaster and a whale shark tank.
Over time, China ambitiously hopes to expand the island to the point that it becomes as world-renowned as Florida’s attractions and theme parks – such as Disney Land and Universal Studios – which would undoubtedly boost the country’s revenues from tourism and help to capitalize on a different sector than Macau’s pure gambling tourism market.
Macau Feeder for Potential Tourism Base
But it is the millions of tourists flocking to Macau each and every year that really slides the odds towards Chimelong’s success. And with the Beijing government also playing a supportive role as the project develops, the smart money would actually be placed on China pulling this one off.
As a result of the development and its prospects, property prices on Hengqin Island have skyrocketed to more than double the amount per square meter as on neighboring Zhuhai Island, leaving residents more than happy with their investments. So far, local officials say that the island has already attracted $39 billion worth of investments from companies who see the potential of the resort.
Philip Tulk, director of equities research at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong, has little doubt that the development will be a success for the country.
“The mainland people are looking for entertainment and travel options that are reasonably easy,” Tulk said. “They strongly desire new and interesting places to go and if Chimelong can deliver on that it will be massively successful.”
While Macau’s gaming revenues grew by more than 21% last month to about $3.6 billion, there is little more that the island can do in terms of expansion due to land limitations. Therefore, the Chimelong resort adds space to the tourism trade as well as variety. And since Hengqin is only about ten minutes away from Macau, this possibly opens up a new aspect of family tourism for Macau.
“Macau is small and there are too many people. It needs to be expanded,” explained Niu Jing, director of the administrative committee for the Hengqin New Area. “Chimelong is a good complement. It is positioned as leisure tourism.”
Since Hengqin is around three times the size of Macau, and offers up a scenic sandy coastline and lush mountainous forests, the island is the perfect location for expansion of the Chinese tourist market. This will be made easier when new bridge and rail services connecting the two areas are completed by 2016; currently, they are mutually accessed via two underwater tunnels.
With an aquatic theme, Chimelong resort is the major attraction to open on the island this year, and offers tourists 1,880 hotel rooms, as well as a conference center, spa and indoor water park.