Macao's development is set to surge as the city builds on its role as a global tourism center and further diversifies its economy, according to Pansy Ho Chiu-king, a well-known Hong Kong-Macao businesswoman.
Ho, executive chair and managing director of transport conglomerate Shun Tak Holdings, was confident Macao's efforts would inject new impetus into its development.
The city's strength in tourism and hospitality, the richness of its cultural heritage and support from the motherland all inspire confidence, she said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
In February, the Macao Government Tourism Office said visitor arrivals topped 32 million last year, a rise 5.4 percent from 2016.
"Macao only has a population of about 600,000. But that small population is capable of serving more than 30 million tourists," Ho said. "This proves Macao's strength in tourism and hospitality, which will serve as the foundation for building a world-class tourism and recreation center."
The city has gained recognition by hosting the annual Global Tourism Economy Forum - a leading international platform set up to promote sustainable development of the global tourism industry with a focus on China - since 2012.
Ho, who is vice-chair and secretary-general of the forum, said all 28 European Union countries would participate in this year's forum, and despite its small size, Macao's advanced tourism industry, mature hospitality management and flexible international nature allows it to host such a large-scale event.
Managing businesses across Macao's hospitality, transport and property sectors, Ho noted that the city enjoys the advantage of a rich cultural heritage.
A former Portuguese colony, the city's art and architecture reflect the integration of Chinese and Western cultures, and in 2005, the Historic Center of Macao was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Ho said the city's rich cultural heritage would rebrand it with a more sophisticated image, and Macao's cultural industry has great potential because it embodies China's call for a united world.
She believes that building "a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind" - a concept mentioned by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, in his report to the 19th CPC National Congress in October - will require countries to share with, learn from and inspire one another.
She said the Belt and Road Initiative, which links the Chinese mainland with more than 60 regions and countries, will allow Macao to tap into many different markets and business opportunities.
Ho, a member of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the country's unstinting support has been a crucial ingredient in the development of Macao's tourism sector.
In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the central government pledged to support Macao's attempts to become a world-class tourism and recreation center.
In 2015, the China National Tourism Administration and the Macao government signed an agreement and set up a committee to coordinate assistance from the mainland and the local government's work.
Ho said the central government's support for Macao has been demonstrated through the upholding of the principle of "one country, two systems "as part of the basic policy to carry out Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
"That, from my point of view, implies that the country values the affairs of the Hong Kong and Macao SARs. And the two SARs' future development will be closely connected to the country's overall development," she said, calling for more communication and cooperation within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
"Only when we are on the same page, knowing each other's advantages, will we achieve mutually beneficial progress."