Macau is betting on a vision

Macau is a place of contradictions. The place is a hive of frenetic development, but it remains off the beaten track for large-scale international tourism, not yet in demand by the vast majority of the major international airlines ¨C nor so far for cargo. Yet its prospects are excellent, Michael Westlake reports.

Macau’s airport was born during a wave of building new or replacement airports in southern China’s Pearl River Delta region largely caused by China’s then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping touring southern China in 1992 andencouraging economic development.

Just about every wealthy city drew up plans for an airport. Of the major fi ve within about 40 miles or less of each other, a heady mixture of politics and economics surrounded theircreation:

Shenzhen, immediately north of Hong Kong, had started in a small way in 1991 but became international in 1993, and was already looking at becoming a reliever airport for a very crowded Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It is now the Chinese mainland’s fourth busiest airport after Beijing, Shanghai andGuangzhou.

Guangzhou, southern China’s major centre, needed a long time to get moving, fi nally opening a“greenfield” replacementNew White Cloud Airport in2004 with massive developmentpotential for up to six runways.

Hong Kong replaced Kai Tak with a giant new airport at Chek Lap Kok, alongside Lantau Island in the New Territories, in July 1998 after a year’s delay. The new airport was started under British rule in Hong Kong and was supposed to be opened before Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, but this proved impossible to achieve. It has already opened a second terminal and is talking about adding a third runway and third terminal.