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A flag-raising ceremony is held at Macao"s Golden Lotus Square on Thursday to mark the 19th anniversary of the special administrative region"s return to the motherland. ZHANG JINJIA/XINHUA

The Macao Special Administrative Region will fully participate in the nation"s new round of reform and opening-up, and leverage the city"s unique advantages to meet the country"s needs, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on said on Thursday.

Chui made the pledge in an address at a ceremony in Macao celebrating the city"s 19th anniversary of returning to the motherland.

Chui said the SAR will unleash its institutional advantage provided by the "one country, two systems" principle, strength in tourism and ties with Portuguese-speaking countries to bolster its comprehensive participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Chui added that his administration will promote mutual communication with authorities from the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong SAR to promote Greater Bay Area development.

He said a Bay Area-related working committee has been set up for detailed project allocations.

Chui also said the MSAR government will unite all social forces to develop the city into a world center for tourism and leisure and an economic and trade cooperation platform for China and Portuguese-speaking countries. It also will further strive to promote economic diversification.

In the past 19 years, Macao has made significant achievements in fields such as economy and education, officials said.

Macao"s GDP has risen more than eightfold since it returned to the motherland on December 20, 1999. It jumped from about $6.1 billion in 1999 to $50.36 billion in 2017, according to Trading Economics research.

Since 2007, 15-year free compulsory education has been provided, including kindergarten, primary and secondary education.

Lin Guangzhi, director of the Institute for Social and Cultural Research at the Macau University of Science and Technology, said Macao"s prosperity in the past 19 years was a result of the correct and accurate implementation of "one country, two systems".

Lin said Macao has made the most of the principle to develop its gaming industry, while engaging in regional cooperation with neighboring cities to seek diversified economic growth.

"Macao"s success comes from both the support of the central government and the joint efforts from all walks of life in the SAR," Lin said.

Andy Wu Keng-kuong, president of the Travel Industry Council of Macau, envisioned a boom in Macao"s tourism industry thanks to the Bay Area plan that is expected to come out early next year and the opening of several cross-border infrastructures.

Mainland travelers have been a major support for Macao"s tourism industry. Wu said he hopes the recently opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will attract more international visitors and help the city become an international hub for tourism and leisure.