By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Cheong U has announced that the Government’s long-term goal is to make tourists stay in Macau for three or even up to five days in the “most ideal” situation.
Responding to lawmakers’ questions about the development of Macau as a world travel and leisure hub, Cheong said he is optimistic about the future prospects but added that a lot of work still needs to be done.
With the number of cultural festivals, religious activities, conventions and exhibitions and professional performances taking place in Macau, as well as the Hengqin Chime Long International Ocean Resort expected to be open in 2013, Cheong said “Macau’s integrated attractiveness will gradually be increased”.
“Our goal is that tourists will stay in Macau for three days, and ideally for five days,” the secretary told the lawmakers at the Legislative Assembly yesterday.
In order to shape the territory into a world travel and leisure hub, he pointed out that it is necessary to enhance the quality of the tourism products, strengthen the unique cultural elements and also promote the local tourism brand.
He suggested exploring the “women, elderly, family, student and married couple” markets, but admitted that the air link of Macau is not presently strong enough.
“We also hope that tourists can take home a happy memory about Macau and have a pleasant impression of Macau so that they are keen to visit the city again in the future,” the secretary said.
In addition, Cheong U said the Cultural Affairs Bureau is looking into the purchase of the Sino-Western Pharmacy in Rua das Estalagens and to rent the Lingnan-style old buildings in Patane in order to transform them into a public library.
He also said street signs of tourist attractions will be improved so as to facilitate visitors’ travel experience in the city.
Budget hotels on the way
Meanwhile, director of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) João Manuel Costa Antunes disclosed that the office is looking into the feasibility of renovating old buildings and transforming them into budget hotels.
He also pledged that a hotel or restaurant license must be granted within three months.
According to Antunes, luxury hotels in Macau already reported an over 80 percent occupancy rate early this year, while other low star-rated hotels reached 60 percent.
Yet, he rejected claims that the MGTO failed to promote budget hotels or guesthouses to tourists.
“Low star-rated hotels had 500 guest rooms left vacant every day because most of the tourists chose higher quality hotels,” he told the lawmakers.
Cheong U also pointed out that developing the cultural and creative industries involves “big investment and certain risks” but it “takes time to pay back”.
He reiterated that the Government will take a cautious approach when launching the cultural and creative industry fund.
President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau, Ung Vai Meng, agreed with some lawmakers that cultivating talents for the development of the cultural and creative industries is a priority at the moment.
Ung said the bureau has drafted short-, mid- and long-term plans aimed at respectively encouraging education institutes to implement training courses for young people to learn about the industries, launching arts administration-related tertiary education courses, as well as introducing cultural and creative education to children at schools.
Bilingual legal talents in demand
Vice rector (administration) of the University of Macau, Alex Lai Iat Long, said a “rare number” of students already possess a Portuguese language skill before entering the university, and it is also hard to find lecturers who know both Chinese and Portuguese.
Lai said the university is discussing different options in order to cultivate more bilingual law graduates, such as extending the course duration to add longer Portuguese-language training, combining the bachelor’s and master’s programs or introducing a double degree course.
The vice rector also said seven of the 16 locally trained law lecturers have left the university over the years to become judges or lawyers.
The discussion also touched on health matters, with president of the Social Welfare Bureau, Iong Kong Io, justifying the establishment of the methadone service station in the Areia Preta Health Centre.
He said the bureau understands residents’ concerns but stressed that it is not the same as a traditional rehab centre and drug abusers only go to the service station voluntarily.
Iong said in the beginning the service station will open between 9 am and noon so as to minimise the impact on students.