Macau seeks return of e-visa scheme with China
Macau is working with China to reintroduce its Individual Visit Scheme e-visa program that allows Chinese residents to visit the city with ease.
Calvin Ayre reports that the program has been on hold since January 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and previous attempts to relaunch the system haven’t been successful.
The e-visa is essentially an electronic method of filing for an Individual Visa Scheme, but anyone from the Chinese mainland who wants to visit Macau now has to apply in person.
As a result, in many cases, it can take up to two weeks for an application to be approved, but the e-visa option provides approval for same-day travel.
Maria Helene de Senna Fernandes, the direction of the Macau Government Tourism Office said: “Mainland visitors have to apply for IVS in person, so we keep fighting for the resumption of IVS e-visa with the mainland government.”
Any recovery for Macau is dependent on the relaunch of the e-visa program, which Sanford C Bernstein analysts said during its weekly Macau update.
“We expect visitation to increase only slowly over the next months, assuming travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are not increased.
“The key jump in visitors will come when visa processing switches back to digital and the same day, which may take some time. We are not likely to see material alleviation of bottlenecks in the near term.”
The director of the Macau Government Tourism Office is remaining positive that Macau can get on track, but acknowledges that diversification in its activities will be the key to its success going forward.
This echoes plans that have been in the works recently for Macau to become a global tourism hotspot for everyone, not just gamblers, and Senna Fernandes added: “What we should do in the future is to attract visitors to stay longer in Macau rather than chasing the numbers.
“We should increase attractions in Macau and we hope that package tours from the mainland will be resumed soon.”
Macau’s revenue improves but still lower than last year
The Macau casino industry is slowly working its way back to some semblance of normal, but its year-on-year figures still show plenty of room for improvement.
Casino.org reported in February that casinos won $1 billion to kick off the year, but this is a 63.7 per cent decline from January 2020, or $1.77 billion.
But it was a 2.6 per cent increase compared to December.
More favourable year-on-year comparisons begin with February, as this time a year ago is when China and Macau began ordering people to stay home and travel was greatly restricted.
“Premium mass was the best performing segment during the month, while junket VIP was most hamstrung and base mass continued to be hampered by low levels of visitors and Hong Kong travel closure,” gaming analysts at Sanforc C Bernstein said in a Monday note.
The brokerage added that January “continued to be negatively impacted by visitation bottlenecks due to visa processing and COVID-19 testing requirements.”
Last year was the worst year since 2006 for Macau casinos.
January 2021 marked the industry’s 12th consecutive monthly gaming revenue decline.
As was the case in February 2020, getting in and out of Macau is no easy task.
Being a Special Administrative Region of China, Macau has the freedom to squeeze its border gates and prevent certain people from being granted access.