The Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan is currently available for public consultation. Many have, in the past, complained about the lack of documentation setting out some framework for the development of Macau, a role that the annual Policy Address fails to fulfill.
Now we are getting an increasing number of ‘plans’. There is a positive side to it. It seems to acknowledge that we need to have some shared idea about the general outlook of what and where we would like to be some time in the future, and a fair expectation about what the actions of the government will be for that purpose. Without that, uncertainty prevails, and short-term calculations will always trump any other considerations.
However, the plans must be more than just over-worded documents, where adjectives liberally take the place of substance. We should get two things clear from them. First, a grasp of the methodologies used for the analysis presented; and secondly, a fair understanding of the principles underpinning a particular ‘vision’ about the future and the specific outcomes expected. Otherwise, the significance and impact of any document as a tool for policy setting and as a guide for action will be diminished.
It is, therefore, important to set out clearly what our starting point is or, to use the document’s language, our baseline. There is a section in the document where a so-called ‘baseline’ is set, and the associated ‘challenges’ to Macau are identified. But there is at times a feeling that not all statements are as pertinent as they could be.
Take, for example, the heading “Tourism branding and city positioning”. No one will disagree that gambling is the “main Branding Image “ [in capitals, in the original] of this city, whereas there are other ‘potential branding qualities’ - the usual stuff about East and West, heritage, and so on, follows. We may object somewhat to the wording but, in essence, that is unquestionable. That the problem is mainly one of branding, as seems to be implied, is open for debate, but we will leave that for now.
A more questionable point is the fact that the document defines as a challenge, getting Macau residents to support the city’s branding. This would hardly be a tough obstacle to overcome however, and to say there is a need for stronger promotion of ‘non-gaming tourism products’ in the future does not exactly break new ground.