An increase to 40,000 tourists daily to Macau is “achievable” under the mainland China travel easing steps announced on Saturday, noted Andy Wu Keng Kuong, president of the Macau Travel Industry Council, in comments to GGRAsia.
“Of course, a daily volume of 40,000 visitors to Macau is still a distance away from the pre-Covid times,” said Mr Wu.
In 2019 – the immediate trading year before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic – Macau had an aggregate of over 27.9 million visitors from mainland China alone, or an average daily of over 76,500, according to the city’s Statistics and Census Service. Visitors from mainland China had in that year made up 71 percent of Macau’s overall visitor tally, which stood at 39.4 million.
“At times [during the pandemic], Macau had an average daily of around 30,000 visitors, a level that corresponded to a city-wide average hotel occupancy of 50 percent to 60 percent,” Mr Wu said.
“If Macau’s daily visitor volume can reach 40,000 or more, we expect that the city’s hotel occupancy can also grow to a range of 60 percent to 70 percent, or more,” he added.
Macau’s Chief Executive Ho, Iat Seng, had stated on Saturday that from late October or early November, Macau was likely to see the return of electronically-issued exit visas for mainland Chinese residents to come to Macau, including for individual visit scheme (IVS) permits, as well as group tours from the mainland.
He added it could see daily visitor volume rise to 40,000. That would be circa four times higher than the daily average in August.
Gaming scholar Ryan Ho Hong Wai told GGRAsia the news was a long-awaited “positive” for the city’s tourism sector and also for casinos’ mass-market gambling business.
“The Macau casino operators might see marked improvement in their gaming business results in the fourth quarter, as they all have had a low base,” in terms of third-quarter numbers, suggested Mr Ho. He was referring to the expected drag on the casino sector’s financial results for the three months to September 30, after a local summer outbreak of Covid-19.
The return of mainland Chinese tour groups, in particular, would “not only help the city’s community sightseeing businesses, but also the satellite casino operators’ hospitality trade,” suggested Mr Ho.
“In pre-Covid times, several of Macau’s satellite-operator hotels,” had been popular with “mainland package groups,” said Mr Ho, a lecturer at the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies, at Macao Polytechnic University.
What the appetite will be for casino gambling among returning mainland tour group travellers, is hard to predict, said Mr Ho.
“It’s been almost three years since Macau has received tour groups en masse… it might take some time for the casino operators to re-adapt to their consumption habits,” Mr Ho suggested.
The ongoing effectrs of the pandemic in mainland China – and geopolitical tensions – had impacted its economy, and may also affect the appetite of its consumers to spend money on leisure, the scholar noted.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, mainland China remains the only place that has a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with Macau.