While Macau has long since surpassed Las Vegas in terms of annual gambling revenue, Sin City’s slightly defensive defenders like to cite Vegas’ non-gambling attractions as a trump card that Macau can’t beat. Just last month, University of Nevada Las Vegas professor emeritus William Thompson told Vegas Inc that “Las Vegas has always been ahead in entertainment, shopping and all forms of tourism.” Thompson cited stats that show gambling falling from 59% of Vegas casinos’ total revenue in 1989 to less than 39% by 2010. Meanwhile, Thompson says Macau casinos still earn 90% of their revenue from gambling.
Vegas better not get too cocky. The Macau Daily Times reports that University of Macau researchers have just published the 2011 version of the Macau Visitor Profile Study. The study, which queried 7,314 visitors aged 18 or older, put casino gambling no higher than third on the list of primary attractions luring visitors to Macau. The number one attraction, cited by 92.7% of visitors, was dining. Shopping came second with 79.6%, while ‘casino-touring’ came in at 63.3% and local tourist attractions ranked fourth with 58.3%. After they were done dining, shopping and casino-touring, 76% of the study’s participants said they were satisfied with their stay in Macau. Just under half (48.2%) stated they would ‘definitely return’ next year, while 43.5% said they’d recommend the trip to others.
Meanwhile, Macau’s Statistics and Census Service has released figures detailing package tour visitors’ countries of origin. Of the 661k visitors who came to Macau on a package tour in February, the 438k visitors from Mainland China represented a 32% boost over 2011. Next on the list was Taiwan, which contributed a comparatively small 68k, but that’s a 174% improvement over last year. The 39k visitors from Hong Kong were also up sharply (96%), while Korea’s 34k visitors represented a 35% bump. Overall package tour visitors for the first two months of 2012 were just shy of 1.3m, a 42.6% gain over 2011. Package tours accounted for 28.2% of total visitor arrivals, up from 21.4% for the first two months of 2011 (adding weight to stats showing the mass market gaining ground on the VIP segment).
In other words, the boys at passport control are working overtime, despite the fact that Macau’s Tourist Price Index rose 10.15% in the first three months of 2012. For the 12 months ending in March, the figure was even higher (14.24%). That’s more than twice Macau’s overall inflation rate, although the seasonal gouging that accompanies the Chinese New Year holiday played a role in the juiced numbers.