China / HK Macao Taiwan

Macao taps into sports tourism market

By Sun Xiaochen in Macao ( Updated: 2014-03-03 15:13

For visitors from the Chinese mainland, Macao is no longer just a gambling destination featuring luxury casinos.

There are more options attracting such tourists now, such as watching well-toned Chinese fighters throw punches and kicks at each other in state-of-the-art venues, thanks to the host of the finale of The Ultimate Fighter China television series.

The final of TUF China, a reality TV series produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship to draft talented Chinese fighters, was held at the Cotai Arena of The Venetian Macao on Saturday night and eventual winner Zhang Lipeng earned a six-figure contract with UFC, the highest-level professional mixed martial arts competition in the world.

As was demonstrated by staging the TUF China finale at its packed 15,000-seat Cotai Arena, Sands China Ltd, the owner of the hotel, is trying to reshape the image of Macao by offering more diversity for visitors from the mainland.

"The big part of our strategy is to continually diversify the products with great events. So people start to be aware that there is a whole lot more to do than they used to do in Macao," Edward Tracy, president and chief executive officer of Sands China, told China Daily on Saturday.

"There are many more hotel rooms, more events and more meeting space - all of that makes it a more attractive destination. That's good for Macao."

Five Chinese fighters including Zhang, his opponent Wang Sai and Wang Anying from Hong Kong competed against international MMA masters in the prelims and main card of the UFC Fight Night on Saturday. It was a big improvement since the last event in Macao in 2012 when only one Chinese fighter, Zhang Tiequan, appeared on the card.

More appearances of Chinese fighters will help boost the business in the mainland market, where operating casinos is prohibited, said Tracy.

"Anytime you have a local fighter who has the ability to create a story and create a championship, it will be more and more interesting for the audience in China. I thinks this is the very beginning of what will become a very great sports story."

"People begin to understand the high quality of the event we presented and they want to come and be part of it. We are patient and we are aggressive about how we market it, and that's paying back."

Sands China's effort to provide more sports entertainment at The Venetian Macao has included Olympic champion boxer Zou Shiming's two fights as a pro and hoops icon Yao Ming's charity basketball exhibition game last year.

More such programs will be held in the near future.

Tracy said the annual Macao Open golf tournament will continue to be held in autumn and some basketball and tennis events scheduled for 2015 will be announced soon.

"It's a pretty full agenda for the rest of the year and we think 2015 will be as successful as well."

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