Visitors pose for pictures in front of the Ruins of St. Paul's, one of the major attractions in Macao. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Macao is looking to diversify its range of tourism services to feature food and watersports, in a bid to attract more visitors from far and wide.
The region launched the 2018 Macao Year of Gastronomy program after it was selected to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a city of gastronomy in October.
Food-themed events, including an international gourmet food forum and Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, will be staged in Macao this year, says Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao tourism office.
Macao will also exchange food ideas and step up cooperation with Chengdu and Shunde, two other Chinese cities awarded the UNESCO title.
At the same time, an international culinary training zone will be established, and a cooking skills center is planned to open at a local tourism education institute, says Senna Fernandes.
"A local Macao cuisine database will be set up to preserve its history, recipes and cooking methods, while objective standards are to be established," Senna Fernandes says.
The goal is to carry forward the local gourmet culture, which has a rich history dating back more than 400 years.
At the same time, Macao is planning to introduce a range of coastal tourism projects such as yacht leasing and watersports in a bid to achieve its goal of turning the region into a world-leading tourism and leisure center, as outlined in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15) period.
The region's coastal areas were stipulated as covering 85 square kilometers by the Chinese government in 2015.
Landmark tourism facilities, such as the Grand Prix Museum and Macao Wine Museum, will be upgraded, and parent-child facilities will be continuously developed, says Senna Fernandes.
The region received 23.6 million visits by outbound travelers in 2017, an increase of 5.6 percent compared with the previous year.
Travelers from the Chinese mainland contributed to more than 20 million visits, a rise of 8.5 percent year-on-year.
Senna Fernandes says she is especially glad to see the number of travelers who stayed the night accounting for 52.9 percent of all visits, a jump of nearly 10 percent year-on-year.
With the upcoming completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, tourism development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is rapidly gaining momentum, and will bring new opportunities to Macao, Senna Fernandes says.
Macao joined a tourism federation with Hong Kong and nine cities in Guangdong province in December, and the group plans to jointly launch routes around the bay area, she adds.
So far, routes integrating Zhuhai and Macao, and Macao with Hong Kong, have seen brisk sales with online travel agency Ctrip.
"As long as Macao makes good use of its national policy advantages and opportunities, its future as a world-leading tourism and leisure center will be increasingly bright and clear," Senna Fernandes says