Construction On A Number Of Stalled Projects To Start Up Again, As City Aims To Cement Its Reputation As The “Vegas Of The East”
Macao, the former Portuguese colony that rejoined China in 1999, has had its share of ups and downs over the past few years. In recent years, the city replaced Las Vegas as the world’s largest gambling market by total revenue, but not long after gaining this distinction, the city was hit hard by the global economic downturn — which bit into the city’s crucial tourism industry as well as its breakneck pace of construction. Now, as the recession eases somewhat in the region — China itself has not been hit as hard as many more developed economies — Macao aims to restart its vast construction efforts and attract more young professionals, luxury shoppers, and gamblers.
Today, the New York Times has a great article on the ongoing transformation of Macao — what was once a backwater trading hub has, like its neighbor Hong Kong, over the years become an important business and tourism center. As the city continues to carve its unique place in the Chinese and East Asian economies, developers continue to work hard to create in Macao a world-class real estate and travel destination. With large-scale luxury developments like One Central due to open within the year, it looks like Macao is, indeed, starting to get back on its feet:
The development’s 796 luxury apartments will single-handedly drag the quality of the housing stock in this former Portuguese colony up a notch. And Macao, now an autonomous special administrative region of China, is looking forward to the lift.
Like a player on a bad streak at the tables, little had been going right for the city in recent months, even though it recently replaced Las Vegas as the world’s largest gambling market by total revenue. But there are signs of improvement. Property transactions, which had slumped to a 24-year low, are picking up. The city is preparing to elect a new administration, which should get a stalled construction permitting system back on track and may produce a new economic stimulus package. And visa restrictions for mainland visitors are easing, so more gamblers should soon be on their way.
One of [the newcomers to Macao] is David Ogilvie, the office manager of the British Business Association of Macao. He says the place he rented for five months in Hong Kong cannot compare with the 600-square-foot apartment in the Flower City development where he lives now.
“It is about three times the size as my apartment in Wanchai, in Hong Kong, and almost half the price, while still being in a prime position in Taipa,” he said, referring to one of Macao’s islands. For younger professionals on tighter budgets, “the standard of accommodation here is, in my view, substantially better than Hong Kong.”
And, with the opening of One Central Residences, the luxury end of the market will improve too. The project, which will include a Mandarin Oriental Hotel due to open next year and a top-end shopping center, is a joint venture between Shun Tak Holdings and Hongkong Land.
“One Central is definitely going to be the premier luxury complex in Macao,” said Juliet Risdon, director of the Macao-based real estate brokerage Risdon, Lawson and Lo. “There’s no doubt, given the involvement of those brands. It’s going to be stunning.”
Other reasons for optimism: A major casino, the City of Dreams, is to open on June 1 and a stimulus package from the mainland government is expected as the new chief executive takes office in December and the city celebrates the 10-year anniversary of its return to China.
With the engine of development starting to warm up again in Macao, and investment beginning to flow in from the Mainland and Hong Kong, hopefully this city can turn the difficulties it has had in the past few years into positive growth and transformation. Macao has always been a city of constant flux, from the early colonial years to its current globalized iteration, and it appears that this reputation will continue unabated.