Galaxy Macau’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Janette Kendall and Vice President of Marketing Communications Jane Tsai outline the background to successfully launching a new gaming brand in a high-stakes, hyper-competitive market
To most observers back in the summer of 2004, Galaxy Entertainment Group’s Macau debut would have looked to be anything but auspicious. The group got its start running gaming operations at The Waldo Hotel, opened under third-party ownership in June of that year in a converted office building near the Ferry Terminal, with a casino containing all of 38 table games and 150 slots. Eight years and five properties later, Galaxy is acknowledged in the largest of the world’s casino markets as one of its leading operators, its US$1.9 billion Galaxy Macau on Cotai hailed as an avatar of the market’s future.
GEG was the only one of six postmonopoly casino operators to enter the market without any established experience, much less brand identity, in the gaming industry. But at The Waldo, by cannily concentrating on the VIP market, it outgrossed more publicly promoted properties such as Sands Macao in its first year of operation.
Armed with that experience, GEG went on to build its first flagship property, the US$436 million StarWorld Hotel and Casino, in 2006. Since opening, StarWorld has enjoyed steady growth in the VIP business, and continues to be not only the most profitable property per square foot in Macau, but also one of the highest-returning gaming properties in the world because of its central location and world-class product offerings and service. In the third quarter of 2012, StarWorld’s revenue topped HK$5.2 billion (US$667 million), and the property generated a return on investment of 99%.
These formative years for GEG and its vice chairman, Francis Lui, were critical to the success of what would become the company’s most ambitious undertaking. They allowed Mr Lui the chance to analyze Macau’s visitor patterns and preferences, particularly among those arriving from the lucrative mainland Chinese tourist market. At the time, income and discretionary spend among Chinese were on a steep rise, and with it, China outbound travel and the phenomenon of the “free independent traveler” (FIT). FITs were also showing increasing attraction to the already popular destination of Macau. Visitor arrivals to Macau grew steadily from 11.5 million in 2002 to 28 million last year.
Mr Lui’s winning proposition was to develop a resort, Galaxy Macau, that appealed first and foremost to the Asian traveler and those looking for a premium Asian holiday experience. GEG claims Galaxy Macau is the only property of its kind in Macau with true resort features, the centerpiece of which is the tropical, 52,000-square-meter Grand Resort Deck with an actual white sand beach surrounding its signature 4,000-squaremeter Skytop Wave Pool. The resort also includes more than 2,200 rooms, suites and villas across three world-class, five-star hotel brands, Galaxy Hotel, Hotel Okura Macau and the Banyan Tree Macau.
The Skytop Wave Pool
Understanding the importance of food to complete an authentically Asian holiday experience—as well as to offer a touch of familiar home comfort to traveling guests— GEG made sure to create a diverse pan-Asian selection of F&B outlets at Galaxy Macau. In support of the Macau government’s efforts to continue to diversify entertainment offerings in the city, it also introduced the state-of-the-art, nine-screen UA Galaxy Cinemas, which has proven tremendously popular among Macau residents given that the city previously did not offer any modern multi-screen cineplexes.
The opening of Galaxy Macau signaled the arrival of a new major player on the global gaming stage. By analyzing the target audience and developing a compelling brand proposition, GEG has become the No. 2 operator in Macau in terms of market share. Its “World Class, Asian Heart” hospitality and its positioning as the “New Palace of Asia” have created a unique visitor experience. The brand positioning is clearly outlined in a new brand campaign, “Here you are royalty,” that is currently all over target markets in print, outdoor and TV advertisements.
Inside Asian Gaming spoke with Galaxy Macau’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Janette Kendall and Vice President of Marketing Communications Jane Tsai about the Galaxy brand.
Galaxy Macau’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Janette Kendall (left) and Vice President of MarketingCommunications Jane Tsai
IAG: GEG has clearly created a brand and an image of a place to go at Galaxy Macau. Can you please describe it for us?
Ms Kendall: Francis Lui’s inspiration for developing Galaxy Macau is based upon a Southeast Asian resort, with the insight that most travelers in Asia go to Southeast Asian destinations on holiday. We call Galaxy Macau the “New Palace of Asia”, which comes from a couple of different levels. First of all, it talks about the architecture. The building looks like a palace. It creates that “wow factor.” Second, when a lot of customers go to luxury resorts, they want to be treated like VIPs. They want to be treated like royalty.
So, it’s all about the luxury resort experience and how a customer is going to get the utmost in what we call “World Class, Asian Heart” service. “World Class” refers to providing the standard of international, top-of-the-line, five-star luxury hospitality in terms of service and facilities. Galaxy Macau is simply world-class, whether it’s the hotels, gaming experience, restaurants, entertainment or any other aspect.
The Asian experience is our key differentiator. Understanding that the market already had properties offering Chinese or Western experiences, the unfulfilled niche was an authentically Asian experience.
And the “Heart” is a level of hospitality and service delivered with attentiveness, respect, passion, sincerity and cultural sensitivity. It truly comes from the heart. It is a unique experience in the market – an authentically Asian resort for local, regional and international travelers.
Ms Tsai: The “Here, you are royalty” campaign really gets to the heart of this. The TVC is truly stunning and a reflection for why we refer to Galaxy Macau as The New Palace of Asia. It follows a couple through the integrated resort, making all these exciting discoveries along the way and showcasing the amazing features which have been carefully designed throughout the property. Every time the couple see themselves in a reflection, they see themselves as royalty. By the time their journey is over, they have come to believe that the perception of themselves as royalty is actually reality. This is the kind of experience we want our guests and visitors to have – to be transformed into something larger than life when they pass through our doors.
Back in 2004 there was an acute shortage of capacity in Macau and you could pretty much have a gaming table and not much else, and you’d get customers. You didn’t really have to provide such a high level of service. But now with the explosion of capacity and choice, it seems customers are becoming more savvy and demanding.
Ms Kendall: As consumers across Asia are becoming more affluent, they’re also being exposed to more choice. Their consumption preferences have changed a lot when they travel on holiday. They’re looking for as many different types of experiences as they can get within a short period of time.
Even for a day-tripper, they may not be staying in one of the hotels or dining in the high-end restaurants, but they can still experience the quality and luxury of the property wherever they go. Not everyone will be accessing every amenity, but they want the choice. Even if they’re dining in an everyday-type restaurant, they are still getting that consistency of service, and it really is a premium experience. For example, simply seeing a movie at the spectacular UA Galaxy Cinemas makes filmgoing an extraordinary experience.
Ms Tsai: One of the things that is important is food choice. Food is an integral part of any holiday experience for travelers across the region. When visitors travel to Thailand, they’ll say, “I ate this Thai food”, or when they go to Japan, they’ll say, “I ate at this restaurant”. We want to offer traveling guests a wide variety of worldclass cuisines to allow them to try new experiences, while also offering cuisines from their home countries so that there’s also a sense of comfort available during their stay at Galaxy Macau. Understanding the importance of food in completing a holiday experience is why we have placed such an emphasis on offering the finest in Asian and international cuisines.
How is the marketing department involved in deciding the shape of your properties, and what types of products and services are offered within?
Ms Kendall: Our role is to provide consumer insights into what customers want – whether we’re talking about their expectations of their gaming experience, , their dining choices, their hotel preferences, or how they want to be entertained Whilst I’ve been at Galaxy, I’ve seen that there is a very collaborative approach to the development of concepts to ensure the ideas deliver on the brand promise, and exceed our customers expectations.
Ms Tsai: Janette is absolutely right about the consumer insights. We’ve taken those insights and applied them to Phase II of our development with the addition of key amenities such as more restaurants and a wide variety of retail outlets. GEG currently hold the largest land bank in Macau and we’ve only developed one third of it. Having only built one third provides GEG the opportunity and flexibility to expand and adapt to future changes in market demand and evolving customer needs. .
Ms Kendall: Phase II is an extension of Phase I. It’s an extension of the New Palace of Asia. The brand positioning remains the same. But there are key learnings from Phase I – customer insights telling us what they like or want more of, and where we can improve as well. For example, the expansion of the retail offering as part of Phase II is very much based on that.
How do you gather these insights? Through formal surveys, or anecdotal feedback?
Ms Tsai: There’s an active program here to encourage guest feedback and channel that back to the operations. In some cases it’s a formal survey, and in some cases it’s empirical data from discussions that the staff have had. They are constantly engaging with our guests on a one-to-one level and truly listening for ways in which we can improve our guest experience and ensure that we are delivering our signature “World Class, Asian Heart” service.
Ms Kendall: Every day we get those consumer insights. Every time you walk across the property, you see what’s popular, talk with staff and get their feedback.
As marketing people, you’ve got to be immersed in the property, living and breathing it, and have your eyes and ears open to what people are responding to. This comes from both talking directly to customers, and getting feedback from our frontline staff.
But we don’t just take customer feedback into consideration. We also look at what’s happening in the broader marketplace. Travel in Asia is changing, and the consumption of travel is changing. So we not only look at the Macau market, but also at regional and global trends and changes.
What are some important big-picture changes taking place across the region?
Ms Tsai: For example, in China, the consumption and the method of using online channels for travel has changed drastically in the past 5-10 years. Previously, almost 80% of travelers made their travel plans in the offline space, and you could say the online space was not really effective. Now, online consumption has grown exponentially, and online media in China is being seen as a reliable, trustworthy medium. It is becoming an increasingly important channel for us.
Ms Kendall: The digital and social media marketing team here is one of the best I’ve worked with. We have been doing many innovative things in the digital space to further engage with our customers.
What are the main challenges to running a marketing operation in Macau? Is getting good staff a problem?
Ms Kendall: I was concerned coming to this market because I’d heard about the difficulties of getting staff. But the quality of staff we have here is world-class.
There’s definitely competition to get good staff amongst properties, but I don’t see an absence of talent. The challenge is more about the pace. We’re working in a very fast-paced and ever-changing environment. The challenge is the ability to respond really quickly to opportunities we see in the market. The expectation we place on ourselves to respond quickly to opportunities is very high. To me, that’s more about making sure we focus on the right things and have the right skills and resources to meet the demands of an ever-changing and increasingly competitive market.
How do you train your staff so they deliver service “from the heart?”
Ms Kendall: Obviously, there’s extensive training. But I think it also comes from Francis’ vision. He doesn’t just talk about “World Class, Asian Heart”, he demonstrates it everyday in many ways. It’s something that is part of the senior executive team and deeply embedded in the culture of the organization. When I first joined Galaxy Macau it really stuck me how people treat each other back-ofhouse is very much the same as the frontof- house customer experience – it truly is World class, with an Asian heart.
I believe that if you’ve got that coming right from the top, and it’s demonstrated every day in how we work together and how we service customers, then you have this very powerful culture that is a strong differentiator to the brand. In this sense, “World Class, Asian Heart” is very tangible and gives the brand its uniqueness.
Our staff are obviously trained – but more importantly, they believe in it. We are all committed to making sure all our customers are truly treated like royalty.