The tourism boom in Macau over the last fifteen years made the Portuguese products more notorious to the consumers of mainland China, who visit the "the world capital of gambling", where the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is supposed to arrive on Tuesday, April 30, for a 24-hour stay.
The president of the International Trade Association of Lusophone Markets says that the Portugal brand is associated with quality food and medicines, a trend that has been reinforced over the last decade.
It is true that the Portugal brand is not new in Macau, since Lisbon managed the territory for more than 400 years until December 19, 1999. However, the exponential growth of China's consumer market and the boom in tourism in Macau, also resulting from the liberalization of the gaming industry, has brought new opportunities.
In 2018, 35 million tourists visited Macau, and most of them - 25 million are from mainland China and 6 million from Hong Kong. The famous casinos are the main source of attraction, even because this is the only Chinese territory in which games of chance and fortune are allowed. However, there are other reasons such as the Historic Center of Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or the acquisition of quality products, which are not easily found on the mainland. This is the case of the Portuguese medicines whose imports more than doubled in 2018, when compared with the figures of 2017, according to official statistics of the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR).
Eduardo Ambrósio, president of the International Trade Association of Lusophone Markets, explains that "among the 30 million Chinese who come to Macau every year, many buy medicines to take to mainland China." Ambrósio, a businessman from Macau who has been in the import and export business for more than three decades, points out that "there is little confidence in the quality of the medicines purchased in China, so this is a big business in Macau and Portuguese brands are much better known today than 10 years ago".
But there is more. Food, wine and olive oil are easily found in supermarkets and restaurants. In total, imports of Portuguese products rose 23 percent last year compared to 2017.
About two decades after the transfer of administration, Macau works as a showcase for the Portugal brand. Some Portuguese products are quite popular, even when consumed in a Chinese fashion. "We taught the Chinese to eat sardines with bread, but in fact the Chinese eat sardines at breakfast, lunch or dinner with noodles," explains Eduado Ambrósio, before offering a coffee from Timor-Leste at his association's stand at the Macau International Tourism Fair, which took place this weekend at the Venetian convention center, which is home to the largest casino in the world.