Macau Daily Times (MDT) – Why does MGM want to be the title sponsor of the Trail- Hiker?
Grant Bowie (GB) – I think this opportunity is good because, one, we’ve always had great commitment to the community. And from all the events in Macau, it’s clear that this is one of those events that has been built around community participation, something that we need a lot more of in Macau. It’s not so much an international event, even though it has the capacity to grow, it really is focused on Macau participation. Two, this year, 2017, we will be moving to Cotai and TrailHiker is about Cotai and it’s about Coloane and it’s about the green side of Macau. It’s about getting people to spend time out there, and as a new member of the Cotai community, we think that this is a great event for us to become part of that wider Cotai community.
MDT – Do you think this event will help promote your Cotai property?
GB – We would like to see it having [business] value. But more important is getting Macau people to take another look at their city. We all need to spend more time not focused just on the tourists, but on our own people. At last year’s event, the one comment that kept coming out over and over again was, “We don’t have enough participative events for Macau people.” And that’s something that excites us. From our perspective, we would like to see this event develop into being an opportunity for multiple activities during the year that celebrates different components of Macau. The best way for us to see [Macau] is on our feet with our friends. Whether you’re a competitor who wants to run the course or whether you pack a lunch and take all day, this is a good thing for all of us.
MDT – One big change will be the start/finish line at MGM Cotai. Can you tell us something about the new route?
GB – Having our property in Cotai, we obviously want to start and finish the event at our property and fortunately, we’ve created a space, not specifically for this event, where we will be able to provide street access. For those people who have participated in the event, [they] understand that that last little pull up the ramp into the event center is tough for some people. It ‘finishes’ some. This [finish line] is at ground level. It will really feel as if you’ve achieved a great success because it’s almost like crossing the finish line at any great event anywhere in the world, almost like… the Arc de Triomphe. [The participants] will pass through our VIP driveway, and we’re going to create a carnival atmosphere celebrating participation. The event now will stay primarily to the east of the Cotai Strip, which means that it’s safer. Hopefully it will reduce some of the pressure on the traffic and simplify the exercise and will increase participation, particularly for schools and younger people.
MDT – The working date I believe is October 28. How long will MGM Cotai have been open by then?
GB – [Laughs] The event will begin and finish at MGM Cotai and our property will certainly welcome the beginning and the end of the event and, certainly, we are looking positively at making sure the property is open at that time. As I mentioned on a number of occasions, it’s a complicated project and it’s still going to be dependent on government approvals.
MDT – But it will be fully operating.
GB – It’ll be finished, it will be finished, yes.
MDT – You spoke earlier about creating events leading up to the main event. What kind of initiatives are you thinking of?
GB – We’d like to sit down and work with the TrailHiker team to create opportunities that may even originate on the peninsula at MGM Macau. Even to this day there’s still a lot of people in our city who don’t really take the time to experience some of the traditional components that make up our city. I think a lot of the young people and even many of the new citizens don’t understand the depth and quality of the peninsula and where our heritage [sites] are and why are they significant. We see the TrailHiker as being a healthy exercise, but also an event of discovery. I think a lot of people who go on the event for the first time are surprised by what they find. The dams, the bridges and, frankly, the hard work that the government’s put in to creating and maintaining the trails. Since I’ve been going on this event, they’ve reforested Coloane. We know that from MGM because we’ve gone out there and planted the trees. So to be able to see the regeneration of the forest and the animal life, the bird life that’s returning to the forest… it’s a positive thing for our city. I think those are the things [we want to develop], from the heritage to the outdoors, plus creating some competitive opportunities for people to learn about it.
MDT – Do you mean trail- like events, like walks?
GB – Walks, runs. I’m a business person and business is naturally competitive and we need to encourage our young people to learn to be competitive. There’s not a lot of organized sport in Macau and that’s a tragedy. For me personally, I grew up in a competitive sporting environment.
MDT – How did your competitor that was the previous title sponsor [SCL] take it?
GB – All the gaming concessions get on pretty well and I think everybody is finding their own space. I think Sands China provided the support that they did for a period of time and it makes sense for them to say they’ve taken the event as far as they could. We’re looking for active participation from all gaming companies in Macau because this is another thing about this event. We’re competitors on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to the TrailHiker, it’s an opportunity for us to come together to provide an event where all of our employees, all of our teams, all of our citizens can just have some fun. We want to encourage more corporates to become involved, both in terms of providing teams, but also providing support and presenting their products and services because, at the end of the day, Macau people should be using Macau products and services. It’s good for the business, it’s good for the community.
MDT – From what you have been saying, you are pretty much engaged, yourself and the company, in this event. Are you going to buy it at some point?
GB – It’s not a question of buying, it’s a question of building an investment and we are obviously looking to work extremely closely [with the organizers]. If it requires further investment to take it to another level, then I think MGM has demonstrated – just as Sands China did in the past – it’s prepared to invest if that allows us, in collaboration with the event organisers, to bring to life some of these additional opportunities, and build this event into something more significant. A critical point for us is about sustainability. History is an important thing for a commitment and having these events go on for a longer period of time is actually where you start getting true value. If we can keep it going [to a point] where we get intergenerational participants. That [would be] testament to the quality of this event and its longevity.
MDT – Are you going to promote it in schools?
GB – Clearly, we need to work with the authorities and through the Education Department, but it seems to me that this is a safe, healthy, positive way for young Macau people to learn some important life skills. Simple things, like when you need to set yourself an objective and prepare yourself to attain it. You need to train to prepare for the event and once you start the event you don’t give up; because if we don’t set objectives for ourselves and we don’t train, then we get into the habit of giving up.
MDT – There’s a lesson about life there.
GB – That’s what sport is all about. Sport for all of us is about learning the lessons of life and hopefully in an enjoyable way and there is nothing more fun than achieving things together. They say that climbing Everest is wonderful, but when you get to the top and there’s no one else there, what does it mean? It means something to you. However, celebrating a team achievement is much more exciting than a personal celebration for individual achievement.