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Macao promoting diversified tourism

Macao International Fireworks Display Contest

Macao International Fireworks Display Contest

João Manuel Costa Antunes, director of the Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO), has stressed on many occasions that diversification of tourism products and source markets are the department's main goals.

Under the theme "Experience Macao," MGTO is striving to present a more flourished and diversified Macao to the world. Employing the slogan, "A World of Difference, the Difference is Macao," Antunes hopes to utilize local resources to enhance the development of cultural tourism. He also says that various thematic tour routes will be developed to attract visitors of different interests and that multi-destination tourism resources will be explored to build up a regional tourism brand.

Macao International Music Festival

Macao International Music Festival

Before Macao's return to China, most of the island's visitors were from Hong Kong. Since July 2003, when mainlanders were granted freedom of travel to Hong Kong and Macao, the number of mainland visitors to Macao has increased substantially, accounting for about 50 percent. In 2008, Macao's visitor arrivals hit 22.9 million, three times of that in 1999, the year China resumed sovereignty over Macao.

Macao has witnessed more than 400 years of exchange between China and the West. Its architecture includes traditional Chinese structures, southern European buildings, Baroque churches and modern designs. The "Historic Center of Macao," an architectural complex where aesthetic, cultural and technological influences from East and West meet, was listed as one of China's 31 world heritage sites in 2005.

Southern European buildings in Macao

Southern European building in Macao

The mixture of the East and West combined with the old and new in Macao often impresses new comers. "Before I came here, I knew nothing about Macao except for its gambling industry, the Ruins of St. Paul's and the A-Ma Temple," said a man surnamed Liu, who has now worked in Macao for four years. "Many people don't know about its abundant cultural heritage until they experience it. Various Chinese and Western holidays are celebrated here, including the Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Day, Christmas and Valentine's Day. It is also fantastic that you can taste both Cantonese and Portuguese food here," added Liu.

MGTO holds various international activities every year to attract visitors, including the Macao Arts Festival, Macao International Music Festival, Macao International Fireworks Display Contest and Macao Food Festival.

Antunes noted that tourism in Macao is developing positively and recovering from the grave impacts of the financial crisis and A/H1N1 flu. Statistics show that visitor arrivals have been rising for three consecutive months, a year-on-year increase of 6.41 percent in August, 3.75 percent in September and 5.19 percent in October.