COO – Japan Development, Galaxy Entertainment Group
When did you first arrive in Macau and in what capacity?
I arrived in Macau in 2003 and at that time I was working for Melco. I recall it was in the middle of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and before Sands. Melco had just started and I got the opportunity to open the Mocha Clubs. I was one of the first to explore the opportunities.
What were your first impressions?
My first impression was in the late 80s when I was a kid. I remember there was water all around and just one bridge and you went through Taipa to get to Coloane. Then later I remember showing investors and fund managers around and looking at all the land reclamation and the properties that were starting to be built. It was amazing and you would never see anything else on this scale anywhere else in the world, except perhaps Dubai. I used to have fund managers from the U.S. call me to ask if Macau was safe as they had heard about the triad wars on the news. I’d answer it was very safe, and much safer than New York. When I started working here, it was very relaxed. The pace of life was very slow, while Hong Kong was fast. Now it’s the same. There was not a lot of business and a lot of meetings where you’d have coffee with government officials that would last until 3pm after lunch!
What were the biggest changes you have seen?
In terms of non-gaming entertainment things have changed. If you came 10 to 20 years ago all you could do was gamble, but now when I talk to friends in Hong Kong and China it’s also a place to come to enjoy great food and entertainment…That and the pace of life!
The customer has also become more discerning. They are demanding more from us and have seen more and we have to catch up with them.
What were the biggest challenges?
At the beginning if you ask any of the principals, they never though Macau would become so big. But we have also been through some difficult times. The global financial crisis was the hardest, it was the time every IR operator was hit hard and even the biggest operator almost went into bankruptcy. We cannot be complacent. The business cycle now has got much shorter, but we have learned from the crises and we are getting stronger.
What do you expect to see for the next 20 years?
I am very lucky as I’m one of the few who has witnessed the changes from the monopoly to today. I am super bullish on Macau given the Greater Bay Area initiative that connects 70 million people. Macau will be the centre for entertainment in the Greater Bay Area and it will be a truly first class offering. The Macau government has done a good job liaising with Beijing on policies and vision. With the current administration, Macau will become more liveable. There are a lot of complaints about traffic etc, but it will improve. Macau has a large surplus and the ability to improve the city.