The Bahamas is in a strong position to attract Chinese highrollers who want to combine a vacation stay with their love for gambling.
The activity is illegal in mainland China, forcing many of its citizens to travel abroad. The ability of long haul tourist hotspots such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City to attract considerable Chinese tourists, means that the Chinese may be willing to travel to the tropics to gamble.
„There is a lot of wealth in China, and there are a lot of gamblers in that market,“ said Russell Miller, president of the Bahamas Hotel Association. „Some may say its too long haul in terms or our ability to attract those gamblers, however, they are already traveling to Las Vegas to gamble,“ he pointed out.
The addition of casinos as part of the South Ocean, Ginn Sur Mer and Royal Oasis developments, in addition to the Crystal Palace, Atlantis and Four Seasons Exuma and Isle of Capri casinos, could make The Bahamas a formidable gambling jurisdiction.
„We already get some business from that market, but just a little at the moment,“ added Miller. „There is some wedding business from China as well as Japan, and I think we can build on that and increase the volume of tourists coming from that market.“
In 2006 the archipelago collected USD 14.1 million in casino taxes alone. Tapping into the Chinese market could also impact positively on the lagging tourism numbers, which declined 6.5 percent for the first six months of this year. It would also play a role in diversifying the sector and decreasing its dependence on the US market.
„The US is our largest provider of tourists and it will continue to be, but I think we need to also open and look at other options and opportunities. China has the largest population in the world and there are certainly opportunities there,“ stated Miller.
Chinese tourists are also known to spend considerable sums when on vacation, and when they travel, their length of stay surpasses that of the US tourist.
„When the Chinese travel its for two weeks minimum,“ Miller highlighted.
To successfully tap into the Chinese market, however, The Bahamas will have to compete not only with Atlantic City and Las Vegas, but the Chinese special administrative region of Macau. Chinese tourists make up a considerable portion of its gamblers, and Macau recently surpassed Las Vegas in gamin revenues, making it the hottest spot for casino gambling in the world. In 2006, Macau generated $ 6.95 in gambling revenue. Other jurisdictions in Asia, such as Singapore, are growing in prominence as casino gambling locales, following Macau’s lead.