Ho empire looks to the future

Stanley Ho enjoyed a monopoly on Macau casinos for over 40 years, but welcomed his first competitors (Las Vegas Sands International, owners of the Venetian Las Vegas, and Steve Wynn) this year. According to his daughter, Ho is hoping to rebrand his casinos and effectively compete with the newcomers. From China Daily:

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Pansy Ho expounds the family’s strategy that involves a fundamental restructuring of its many gaming and tourism assets to focus more specifically on different segments of the market. Those assets, grouped under Hong Kong-listed Shun Tak and privately-held STDM, or Sociedade De Turismo e Diversoes De Macau, include several casinos, numerous hotels, the world’s largest ferry fleet, office and residential properties and interests in the Macao airport as well as Air Macao.

In the past, little effort was put into branding and marketing because “everybody who came to Macao knew about us”, Ho says. That’s hardly surprising as more than 80 per cent of the 10 million or so visitors to Macao each year were from Hong Kong where Ho senior and “Po King,” as his flagship casino – Lisboa – is called in Cantonese, have become household names.

But now this is all changing. The Closer Economic Participation Arrangement (CEPA) with the mainland has opened the door to Macao for a flood of tourists from the many cities and townships in neighbouring Guangdong Province. “We expect at least 6 million, or about half, of the 12 to 13 million visitors to Macao in 2005 will be from the mainland,” Ho says. “This large influx of mainland tourists is expected to fundamentally change the way business is being done in Macao,” she says.

Moreover, Ho says she expects the opening of the new US-operated casinos to attract many more visitors from the US, Europe and neighbouring countries in Asia, particularly Japan and South Korea. “Unlike the past, we are going to have tourists coming from a much greater variety of sources,” Ho says. “They also have vastly varied needs and requirements.”.

A much more aggressive marketing and branding strategy will be needed to attract the different groups of tourists coming to Macao, Ho says. STDM already owns a range of hotels from luxury resorts to budget inns and the company also has casinos that appeal specifically to big gamblers and those that cater to the casual player.

“But we believe that there is a need for us to market and brand our properties differently to tell our potential customers in various market segments of the full spectrum of our products and services,” Ho says. The opening up of the gambling industry in Macao has “created a bigger draw effect” which has helped greatly expand the business opportunities in the one-industry town, she says.

Gambling empire bets on rebranding

Macau is on pace to earn about $5 billion in gamign revenue this year, more than Atlantic City ($4.5 billion, give or take), and catching up to Las Vegas (over $6 billion). It is entirely plausible that within five years Macau will displace Las Vegas as the world’s leading casino destination, at least in terms of gross gaming revenue.
I’m off to the city that is always turned on, Atlantic City, for a few days. I will make an effort to post, but if the blog is dark on Monday and Tuesday, that’s the reason. Hopefully the jitneys are still turned on at 3:30 AM, my estimated arrival time on Absecon Island, if SEPTA and NJ Transit cooperate.

In any event, I’ll be sure to enjoy a pizza at Tony’s Baltimore Grill for you. Later.

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