Fueled by a gaming industry that seems to keep defying all expectations, the southern Chinese enclave of Macau is on target to break its own record for visitors this year as it expands its reach across the region -- and indeed across the globe.
Nine months into 2011 and Macau has already welcomed 20.7 million visitors, according to the city's Statistics and Census Service. That marks a year-on-year rise of 11.2 percent and keeps the city on target to easily surpass last year's record of almost 25 million, the most to have ever visited the former Portuguese-administered city.
While mainland Chinese tourists still account for more than half the people heading in to Macau -- 11.7 million for the first nine months of the year (up 19.8 percent) -- people from other countries are now learning more about what the city has to offer.
South Koreans in particular are starting to flood into the city, with just over 302,000 visiting this year, a rise of more than 21 percent. And Macau's tourism chiefs are hoping that extensive promotions throughout the world will help them spread their net even wider.
The latest mega-attraction in Macau is The Galaxy, a 2,200-room casino resort that opened in May.
Overall, in the first nine months of 2011, Macau collected close on HK$200 billion (18.5 billion euros) from its casinos, furthering its position as the world's gaming capital.
Emboldened by such figures, Macau is set to undergo a growth spurt in the next 12 months. The Hilton chain is scheduled to open a five-star Conrad in the first quarter of 2012, offering more than 600 rooms, while a four-star Holiday Inn will be developed by InterContinental and is also on line for a first quarter opening with more than 1,200 rooms.
Other resorts primed for 2012 include a 2,000-room Sheraton, a facility expected to be supplemented by 2,000 more rooms in a "Sheraton Towers" complex in 2013.