Contrary to reports, Macao’s appeal isn’t waning but in fact is primed to capture more visitors in the near future – the main beneficiaries are hotels that successfully adapt to a different set of clientele and Conrad and its sister hotels are in the forefront of that.
Text by Jan Yong | Photography by Conrad Macao & Jan Yong
My last trip to Macao was when I was 15 and hence I remember only the ruins of St Paul’s Church and the horse racing event that my family and I went to. The famed Macau Portuguese egg tarts weren’t even created then.
Although not overly influenced by the online reviews, I opted for the hotel with the best review at TripAdvisor – Hotel Conrad Macao, Cotai – which has also won the Forbes Five Star Hotel award for 2 consecutive years. Conrad Macao, the largest Conrad in the world, also has the distinction of being the only Conrad Hotel in the world to be given this accolade.
Located in the heart of Sands Cotai Central, the hotel has 636 rooms including 206 suites housed in a 40-storey tower overlooking the Cotai Strip including the Venetian right opposite.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3,4,5″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
What strikes me most about the room is its size – at about 560 sq ft, it’s larger than many apartments in Hong Kong! For Hong Kongers, the luxury of the space is well worth the price of the room which by Hong Kong’s standard is much cheaper. Hence, it’s not surprising that the Hong Kong market is one that Conrad takes seriously. “The weekend market from Hong Kong is a very important segment for us – a family in Hong Kong could depart at 10am from Hong Kong, arrive on time for lunch at 1pm in Macao and then leave the next day,” says Bede Berry, Vice President, Hotel Operations, The Venetian Macao and Sands Cotai Central.
On the other hand, the Mainland Chinese market by virtue of it being next door and comprising the biggest population on the planet, forms its biggest market followed by Southeast Asia. “Half the world’s population is within 5 – 6 hours’ flight from Macau, and that includes China, India, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia. Also, as connectivity improves via High Speed Rail across China, more Chinese from Tier 2 and 3 cities are able to take short trips to Macau, Berry adds.
Furthermore, from Zhuhai, a Chinese coastal city, which is part of a Special Economic Zone neighbouring Macao, one can even walk across the border to Macao. And in 2017, when the bridge linking Hong Kong is completed, it would take only a 25-minute drive from Hong Kong Airport,” Berry enthuses about the easy accessibility of Macao.
According to reports, gambling revenue in Macau has been hit hard by China’s corruption crackdown, and dropped 34% to a five-year low of 230.8 bil Macau patacas (USD28.9 bil) in 2015, the second-straight year of declines. As a result, casino operators in the city are trying to lure mass-market visitors to offset the fall in high-roller gamblers.
For Sands Resort Cotai Strip Macao, of which Conrad Macao is part of, they are banking on their MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) facilities and an unbeatable range of retail shops. “Sands China has 9,000 rooms in Macau now; with the opening of the Parisian Macao end 2016, there will be 12,000 rooms. We are the only integrated resort in Asia that can accommodate all three – the MICE, casino and retail visitors. We have huge ballrooms, an arena that can house 15,000 people, 650 retail shops and a variety of restaurants from top end to fast food like McDonald’s.”
Barry adds that Sands China is very much geared to families with price points that can accommodate families on budget such as the Holiday Inn. Retail-wise, this is a duty-free mecca especially for luxury items where they are 20% cheaper than in Mainland China. There are also lots of shops catering for children’s high end fashion such as Zara and Armani Junior.
In terms of activities, there are Qube2 play zone , Shrekfast, where the kids can have breakfast with their favourite DreamWorks stars from “Shrek”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon”; as well as the upcoming Planet J, one of the largest interactive gaming centres in Southeast Asia.
Sands China is also committed to bringing in concerts from the West and the East including Canto-pop, K-pop, local Chinese artistes, China Music Awards, and Voice of China that would keep interest fresh.
Hence, contrary to news reports, Macao’s appeal isn’t waning anytime soon. Judging from more hotels being built and more family-oriented activities, expectations are that more visitors will be converging there. “In addition, you have 600 years of Sino- Portuguese heritage and 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites,” adds Berry.
TOP NOTCH AMERICAN FIVE-STAR HOTEL
Macao’s future is definitely assured. And one of the biggest beneficiaries will be the Conrad. After all, it’s the only hotel in Macao to have received the coveted Forbes 5-star award. It’s no small feat to receive such an acclaim. There are a whole lot of criteria a hotel needs to fulfil.
I believe one of the criteria has to be the bathroom. Conrad’s bathroom is so large that you could really put another double bed there. When sizing up a hotel room, the bathroom usually figures largely for me, after the bed. Conrad’s bathroom is like a room within a room where the Chinese-style doors with ornate decorations open up to a big bathtub, a shower cubicle and a toilet complete with marbled walls to accentuate the luxurious feel and look.
The king-size bed does wonders to your sleep – even those who didn’t have such a good time at the casino will find much needed rest there. And one does need a good night’s sleep to explore the many attractions Macao possesses including its quaint villages and beautiful beaches.
There is a good selection of pillows that you can choose from to suit your sleeping style – a Pillow Menu offers Snoozer Full Body Pillow, Neck Contour Pillow, Buckwheat Pillow, Lavender Pillow and Non-Allergenic Pillow.
THE LITTLE DETAILS
As they say, it’s the little details that separate the excellent, good and the average. Suffice to say, there were many little touches – a plate of fine chocolates, fruit platter, branded sweets and the customised hallmark teddy bear to make a Conrad stay a bit different.
The hotel has also kept up with the times by having a Concierge App to access news from various top newspapers around the world such as The New York Times, South China Morning Post, The Wall Street Journal and even local ones such as Macao Daily News and Macau Daily Times.
Overall, the room is above average compared to other similarly ranked hotel – as a traditional five-star resort, by American standards, it ticked all the right boxes.
The hotel’s award-winning Dynasty 8 Chinese restaurant where I had the pleasure of dining at served delectable dim sum for lunch. Superbly crafted, each morsel was a delight and I made a note to return there in future should I travel that path again. I particularly liked their steamed prawns with birds nest and egg white. The ambience evokes the old world China charm, with private rooms exhibiting the décor of the eight Chinese dynasties – Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing.
As to whether I would return to stay there again, I would say why not, there is still the award-winning Bodhi Spa to experience as well as a dip in its outdoor heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi which I missed. It’s also a hotspot for celebrity sightings having been chosen as the film location for popular films such as Chow Yun-Fat’s “From Vegas to Macau” and Zhang Ziyi’s “My Lucky Star”.[/ihc-hide-content]