Game Changer: Pansy Ho Steers Macau In A New Direction
“The city has been asked by Beijing to diversify its offerings and rethink its positioning as a world centre of tourism and leisure. It’s no longer just a gaming destination," says Pansy Ho. "We approached the opening of MGM Cotai with that perspective in mind. We looked at creating a destination—somewhere you don’t come to just once, but time and time again. But also a place for local residents to come and see top-production performances and museum-worthy art pieces.”
Five years in the making, the HK$27 billion development is a sight to behold. With four million square feet of floor space, it accommodates 300,000sqft of casino facilities, 1,390 guest rooms, and a pillar-free grand ballroom able to entertain 1,000 people. But the development, which opened in February, is so much more than its technical specifications.
Art for all
Pansy has invested massively in MGM Cotai's cultural outreach, a first for a venture of this kind. Her initiatives include establishing an extensive permanent art collection for display throughout the resort’s public spaces and guest rooms, and incorporating “Asia’s first dynamic theatre,” a multipurpose venue that boasts Hollywood-worthy entertainment technology, including the world’s largest indoor permanent LED backdrop, moveable screens and resident shows.
Art has always been close to Pansy’s heart. She is the driving force behind MGM Art Space, the art gallery at MGM Cotai (her first joint venture with New York-listed MGM Resorts International), which has shown works by masters such as Botticelli and Degas.
The MGM Cotai Art Collection is a natural extension of this passion, though slightly edgier than what’s on show at the older property, which opened a decade ago. “Tastes have changed,” says Pansy. “Our customers are often millennials. They are younger, connected, well-travelled. They seek different experiences, a different, less obvious kind of luxury.”
Pansy worked closely with art consultant Calvin Hui, who was given the remit of promoting a wide range of artists. Their collaboration developed into a collection of some 300 paintings, sculptures and mixed media pieces from such artists as Hsiao Chin, Liu Dan, Chloe Ho and Liu Kuosung, along with 28 rare Qing dynasty imperial carpets from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Contained within this extensive body of work is a more intimate group that Pansy calls the Chairman’s Collection, over 40 pieces of contemporary art that guests and curious visitors can admire up close as they enjoy the resort’s facilities.
Entertainment with an edge
Spectacle, a vast atrium four storeys high and stretching the length or a soccer field that envelops a retail, dining and leisure complex and floods it with natural light. Spectacle is also home to the world’s largest area of permanent indoor LED screens, which switch between dramatic scenic landscapes and stunning works of digital art.
The brands within Spectacle include mainland couturier Guo Pei, Singaporean designer Ethan Ko’s Ethan K brand, menswear label Neil Barrett, Taiwanese jeweller Anna Hu and Italian jeweller Buccellati—not the most obvious choices for a Macanese resort. “I’m all for standing out,” Pansy says. “It’s with things like this that we can really put the city on the international radar.”
Spectacle also features the world’s biggest indoor garden, a green paradise of 100,000 plants representing 2,000 species, some of them resurrected from extinction with the aid of botanical garden seed banks.
Modern dining done right
MGM Cotai boasts hipper-than-thou culinary outlets across the resort—Mauro Colagreco’s sleek Grill 58; Macau’s first Nikkei restaurant, Aji, with Japanese-Peruvian chef Mitsuharu Tsumura at the helm; U.S. ‘Top Chef’ Graham Elliot’s Coast of California flavors; a dessert boutique by Singapore’s Janice Wong that looks like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—and Pansy’s vision for retail units.
“We want to host pop-ups, experiment, and craft one-of-a-kind shopping experiences,” Pansy says. “All the names we’ve decided to partner with are major creative brands I know and respect. Again, it’s all about pushing the envelope, and really speaking to people in more innovative, out-of-the-box ways.”
The big picture
Asked her ultimate wish for MGM Cotai, she says, “To show the world how extraordinary and unique Macau is, particularly in the face of the 20th anniversary next year of its handover to China. But also to change the way we approach leisure. I want people to come in and always find something new, something interesting. To not feel compelled to shop, or play, but simply sit underneath the Spectacle and be transported somewhere else, or spend an afternoon exploring different artworks. That is the future of Macau.”
Discover more about the newly opened MGM Cotai at mgm.mo
Photography: Ricky Lo | Styling: Rosana Lai | Hair: Roland Boutin | Make-up: Janet Lee | Shot on location at: MGM Cotai, Macau