Headline_2 Interviews

‘There are lots of job opportunities in conventions and exhibitions’: Gene Capuano

Gene Capuano, Vice President of Convention and Exhibition Operations for Sands China

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Gene Capuano, Vice President of Convention and Exhibition Operations for Sands China, says the sector offers careers in a wide range of areas

– You have been working in Macao’s conventions and exhibitions sector since 2008. How do you assess its development during this period?
I came to Macao from Las Vegas, where the conventions and exhibitions industry has been around for quite some time already. Macao’s industry was very underdeveloped compared with a lot of big cities across the globe. The way Macao has grown over the past 10 years was much faster than a lot of other destinations that have been around all the way up to 50 years… That has a lot of positives but it brings a lot of challenges as well.

When you look at Macao today, infrastructure has a lot of catching up to do with all of the integrated resorts that have opened up here. The local conventions and exhibitions industry also has to catch up to the amount of exhibition space that we now have, and to the amount of groups that are starting to come in.

– How challenging was it for you to adapt to Macao’s conventions and exhibitions sector?
When I was in Las Vegas, I learned a lot of different ways to execute large events in that part of the world. When I arrived in Macao, my original expectation was to do here everything the same way I did in Las Vegas expecting that it would be okay. I had not factored in the cultural differences nor the fact that there were really no big integrated resorts in Macao prior to Venetian Macao. For me, there was definitely a learning curve, also having to learn a culture that was completely different from what I had known back in the United States.

– What makes Macao’s conventions and exhibitions sector different?
Macao was not on the map 10 years ago when it comes to huge conferences or exhibitions. One big challenge we faced in our company was explaining to clients and event organisers around the world why Macao – and Sands China – was the right place for their events. For us, the most important thing continues to be getting organisers and clients to come to Macao and do site visits so that they can see how everything operates. Over the past almost 10 years, we have put together a very good portfolio of events, covering groups of all sizes, and that helps attract new clients.

“There are lots of job opportunities in conventions and exhibitions. This is an industry that covers a lot of fields, offering careers in many areas”

 – Macao has had to cultivate talent in a short period of time in order to support the conventions and exhibitions sector. How difficult has that been?
The training needed for our team members to be able to understand the meetings and conventions industry has been very, very different from what happens in other, more mature, markets. A lot of training and development goes on in Macao. When we first opened Venetian Macao – a 3,000-room property – we had a lot of staff that came in and were in shock with the huge scale of the operations.

Room for all

– How does Sands China position each of its Macao properties in the local conventions and exhibitions sector?
When you look at our company and at our Chairman, Mr. Sheldon Adelson, our background is in conventions and exhibitions. That is how Mr. Adelson developed the Sands Expo and the Venetian in Las Vegas. He brought the concept to Macao, as well as to the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort in Singapore. Wherever we develop, you are always going to see a conventions and exhibitions component within our properties.

When you look at Macao specifically, we have got several properties in Cotai. One of the reasons why we have different hotel brands and a lot of exhibition and convention space is to make sure we can cater to all clients, big and small. We have hotels from different tiers to make sure that we can offer hotel room rates that meet anyone’s budget. For a particular trade show that draws in thousands of people, large international companies participating might have huge budgets to accommodate their people. However, you can also have a lot of very small businesses that don’t have those huge budgets. Event organisers want to make sure everyone can participate in their shows.

– What are the career opportunities available for fresh IFT graduates in Macao’s conventions and exhibitions sector?
There are lots of job opportunities in conventions and exhibitions. This is an industry that covers a lot of fields, offering careers in many areas. You can develop an entire career in conventions and exhibitions just focusing on IT support, for instance. Other potential areas include marketing or logistics, to name a few. The conventions and exhibitions sector is a very dynamic field and offers lots of chances for growth and personal development.

“If people keep changing jobs because of salary, career development becomes harder”

– What is your advice for fresh IFT graduates looking to enter this sector?
My main advice is for them not to focus just on pay. During their first years in the industry, their goal should be to learn more and improve their knowledge and skills. Those who do that can really progress rapidly, as there are a lot of promotion opportunities available in Macao. If people keep changing jobs because of salary, career development becomes harder.

– On top of your job at Sands China, you have taught some event-related vocational courses at IFT’s Tourism and Hotel School. Why do you think this is important?
IFT President Dr. Fanny Vong invited me to be an instructor at IFT. It is important that the industry is involved in training human resources for our sector and that we share our insights with students. Personally, it was a very interesting experience, as it allowed me a better understanding of the different motivations of people wanting to build a career in conventions and exhibitions in Macao.

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