Swanky restaurants in integrated resorts have been luring international visitors to the territory. But to be positioned as a gastronomic capital, the destination must not forget its local cuisine.
As Macau’s integrated resorts (IRs) increasingly seek an edge through culinary offerings, travel agents say the time is ripe to position the city as a gastronomic capital for both its gourmet and local fare.
Since IRs came onto the scene a decade ago, bringing with them upscale international dining concepts, Macau’s culinary profile has been significantly raised on the world stage.
The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) recently submitted an application to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for Gastronomy, and is collaborating with government entities and local associations on culinary events such as Lusofonia Festival and Macau Food Festival, a spokesperson told TTG Asia.
The HK$26 billion (US$3.3 billion), 1,390-room MGM Cotai, which will open in 4Q, is already dropping celebrity chef names to win travellers over.
Vice president of resort sales, Victoria Fuh, said: “We aim to impress our audience by offering versatile dining with four celebrity chefs (Mauro Colagreco, Mitsuharu Tsumura, Graham Elliot and Janice Wong) helming our restaurants.”
Over the last 12 months, Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) has been introducing new F&B concepts to answer demand for elevated gastronomic experiences, with additions such as oyster bar The Apron (December 2016) and luxury lifestyle cafe Cha Bei (January 2017) in Galaxy Macau; and Japanese-fusion Ufufu Café (May 2017) in Broadway Macau.
Said assistant senior vice president Jit Hoong Ng: “We do not discount the fact that our customers also need diverse and authentic experiences.”
CITS Macau’s international department manager, Cooper Zhang, said: “We are getting more enquiries and requests for gourmet experiences from mid- to high-tier Hong Kong clients craving a Michelin-star (meal).”
Indeed, international haute cuisine is just one part of the equation as Macau seeks to appeal to travellers, as tour operators also want Macanese delicacies and offerings to be highlighted in Macau’s culinary pursuits.
Estoril Tours Travel’s director of sales Johnny Choi opined: “It’s vital to retain our own culinary character. A spate of F&B boutique outlets and cafés established by the young generation in recent years also offer different taste and experience.”
CITS Macau’s Zhang agreed that local delicacy is a strong pull factor. While the agency does not yet have a dedicated gourmet tour, “a special or local meal experience is always one of the elements in our packages”.
Institute for Tourism Studies, executive assistant manager, David Wong added: “In the old days, tourists from the mainland were very much focused on Macau’s casinos but with the number of high-end hotels, restaurants and the attraction of Portuguese and Macanese cuisine, people are staying here longer and increasingly enjoying the more cultural side of Macau, and that includes fine dining and good local eateries.”
Furthermore, local restaurants also make good dining venues for corporates in the lead-up to bigger events, pointed out MCI Macau’s business development and events director, Olinto Oliveira.
“These culinary experiences, in conjunction with the venue offerings and the experiences that agencies are crafting, create an overall package that validates the destination as a premier option for events.”