Patrons slowly returning to Macau’s casinos

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Analysts track Macau?s slow and steady casino recovery

Macau has been receiving about 2000 tourists a day following the relaxation of its quarantine arrangements for travel to Macau’s neighbouring Chinese mainland province Guangdong, compared to “a few hundred” in the weeks prior, a senior Macau official said on Friday.

Director of Macau Government Tourism Office Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes described the improved daily tally as still “low” relative to the numbers before the pandemic.

She was speaking in an interview with the Chinese-language radio service of the city’s public broadcaster TDM.

The relaxation of quarantine arrangements for travel from Macau to Guangdong came into effect last Wednesday.

Mainlanders had mostly not needed to undergo any form of quarantine to enter Macau, but they had been subject to a 14-day quarantine rule when going back via Guangdong.

Investment analysts said that had acted as a deterrent for people to come to Macau in the first place, according to GGR Asia.

Nonetheless, it was also announced on Monday that all would-be customers of Macau casinos would from Wednesday, need a certificate showing they had recently tested negative for COVID-19.

A number of analysts said in commentary on changes that obstacles remained to large-scale tourism.

On Friday, Ms Senna Fernandes suggested it might take a “relatively long time” to see Macau’s inbound tourism recovery to pre-COVID levels.

Mainland Chinese customers have been – since the time of Macau market liberalisation and China’s further opening up, at the start of the current century – a major source for Macau’s inbound tourists.

In 2019, the city had more than 39 million visitors, nearly 71 per cent of them from mainland China, according to data from Macau’s Statistics and Census Service.

Analysts say that until China once again issues exit visas to visit Macau under the country’s Individual Visit Scheme.

It will be hard to get a major ramp up of gross gaming revenue.

IVS allows mainland residents from selected cities to travel independently to Macau and some other places.

Macau’s tourism bureau has nonetheless been working on a new travel campaign aimed at mainland Chinese customers, focusing on promoting Macau as a “safe city”.

Hong Kong and Macau travel bubble could boost casino trade

Macau’s casinos are desperate for patrons and a travel bubble with neighbouring Hong Kong could go a long way to easing the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, Calvin Ayre reported in June.

Hong Kong’s attempt to create a travel bubble spurred recent tumours that Macau would not be part of the deal.

The Chinese province of Guangdong is expected to figure into the quarantine zone Hong Kong is looking to create, but local media quoted chief executive Carrie Lam as saying there would be “technical issues” blocking Macau from the group.

If the deal pushes through, the governments of each region would mutually recognise COVID-19 test results conducted by local testing facilities.

To be allowed to travel within the bubble, a visitor would not be allowed to have left the bubble in the last 14 days.

Lam later dismissed suggestions the bubble would open without Macau, offering that she has instead spoken with Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng about involving the region.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, said the government is discussing the arrangement for mutual recognition of virus test results and exemption of cross-border travellers from compulsory quarantine.

“Details will be separately announced after the discussion has completed,” Chan said.

This could be the boost Macau’s tourism industry needs, according to University of Macau’s Professor in Integrated Resort and Tourism, Desmond Lam.

“I think it would be very beneficial,” Professor Lam said.

“I don’t expect the gaming revenue to shoot up to the previous levels, but just opening up the borders with Hong Kong would mean a lot to the gaming and F&B sides. It would be sufficient for the COVID-19 pandemic recovery and it is what we need.”

The professor went on to note that although more than half of Macau’s visitors typically come from Guangdong and Hong Kong, even if they do return, they are not likely to spend as much.

“I think it is very likely they will not spend the same money as before because they might limit their visits in terms of days, take shorter trips and limit exposure to areas that might seem too crowded,” he said.

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