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UPDATED: December 26, 2014 NO. 1 JANUARY 1, 2015
A Welcome Reunion
Fifteen years after Macao returned to China, life has become more beautiful
By Wang Hairong

A NEW LOOK: A panorama of Macao on December 18, 2014 (LU XIAOWEI)

In the four years preceding Macao's return to China, the local economy, hard hit by the Asian financial crisis, had gone through four straight years of negative growth, the unemployment rate had been high, and residents' income had dropped, according to Macao Daily News, one of the most influential newspapers in the SAR.

The paper attributed its impressive growth to the SAR Government's policies, such as lifting the monopoly on gambling, and the Central Government's supportive policies to facilitate mainland residents' travel to Macao, and the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) to boost development in the region.

Gambling has been Macao's dominant industry. Since 1962, the industry was operated under the then-government authorized monopoly held by Stanley Ho. The monopoly was put to an end in 2002. After that, large foreign casinos from Las Vegas and Australia entered Macao. In 2007, Macao's gaming revenues eclipsed that of the Las Vegas Strip.

From 1999 to 2013, the share of gaming revenues in the SAR's total fiscal revenues rose from 28.3 percent to 76.4 percent, according to Macao Daily News.

In the meantime, the mainland has given strong support to Macao. During an interview with Xinhua News Agency in early December, Chui said he appreciated the support from the Central Government and other provinces and autonomous regions.

In recent years, the SAR Government has made efforts to diversify its economy. In 2014, revenue from the gambling industry plummeted, making economic diversification even more pressing. Progress has been made. In 2013, revenue from such industries as retail, hotel, food and beverage, architecture and finance doubled from that in 2009, reported Xinhua. Its meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition industry (MICE) is also growing vigorously.

Strong support

Macao is a stimulating and engaging place where one can find a unique mixture of tradition and modernity, as well as Oriental and Western cultures. In addition to casinos, tourists are attracted by magnificent buildings, fascinating shows such as the Parade through the Latin City and House of Dancing Water, as well as concerts and other forms of entertainment.

Before 2003, mainland residents could only travel to Macao in tour groups, to visit relatives or do business. Since 2003, more and more mainland cities allowed individual residents to travel freely to Macao. That policy change has fueled a tourism boom in Macao.

As of the end of September 2014, mainland tourists had made an accumulated total of more than 68.28 million visits to Macao, according to Xinhua. In 2013 alone, Macao received more than 29.32 million in-bound tourists, more than 47 times the local population and more than double the number before 1999. In that year, more than 18 million mainland tourists visited Macao, accounting for 61 percent of the region's total in-bound tourists in that year.

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