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Chris Jones

Leaders from Macau Plan to Pitch Homeland Tourism

25 July 2005

MACAU -- In recent years, the Chinese enclave of Macau has increasingly assumed a Las Vegaslike atmosphere as Strip-inspired casinos take shape along the Pearl River Delta.

Early next month, that cultural migration will reverse course across the Pacific, at least for one week in Southern Nevada.

From Aug. 8-14, more than 100 entertainers and representatives of the Macau Government Tourist Office will be in Las Vegas to arouse American interest in visiting their homeland, a historic Portuguese colony that's been a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China since December 1999.

While the Tourist Office has held similar events in nearby markets such as Hong Kong, a spokesman said next month's $500,000-plus "Macau Week" will be the city-state's first such promotion targeting residents of a long-haul travel market.

"I think most Americans don't know anything about Macau, or maybe have not even heard the name before," Frank De Clara, a Los Angeles-based account executive with Myriad Travel Marketing who serves as the U.S. marketing manager for the Macau Government Tourist Office, said Friday.

"While it's known for its gaming and entertainment, obviously we have a broader story to tell about the culture there and why people should visit," De Clara added.

Like Atlantic City and tribal gaming before it, the word Macau has become familiar to those following gaming locally and in competitive markets.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns The Venetian, in May 2004 opened the $265 million Sands Macau, the first Las Vegas-style casino in Asia.

The company is also involved in the development of the Cotai Strip, an approximately 200-acre parcel of reclaimed land that will eventually house seven hotel-casino projects, including Las Vegas Sands' $1.8 billion Macau Venetian project.

Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage recently broke ground on its $975 million MGM Grand Macau in partnership with Pansy Ho Chiu-king. Separately, Wynn Resorts is building its $1 billion Wynn Macau.

All three projects are scheduled to open in 2007.

Wynn Las Vegas will kick off Macau Week with a special piano concert on Aug. 9, while a 50-piece art exhibition is slated for The Venetian.

MGM Grand will host a Macau-themed photo exhibition, and all three resorts will showcase handicraft demonstrations and offer Macau-inspired cuisine at select restaurants.

In addition, Fashion Show mall will host a VIP gathering with Chui Sai On, Macau's secretary for social affairs and culture. Dancers and artists will also put on cultural performances inside the Strip mall's Great Hall.

Most events will be free to the public, De Clara said. In addition to inspiring locals to visit Macau, the Tourist Office hopes to make a strong impression on many of the nearly 720,000 visitors who visit Las Vegas each week.

De Clara compared the connection between Las Vegas and Macau to a "sister cities" designation, though no such official agreement exists. That bond was echoed by a representative of participating Strip resort.

"This is a continuation of our strong relationship with the government of Macau," Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese said early today from Singapore. "We're looking forward to highlighting their culture and heritage at The Venetian."