Hope dawns as Macau hits highest visitor numbers in 14-months

Jon Pill
Posted on: March 30, 2021 08:00 PDT

Macau's entire economy is built on the tourism and hospitality industry. Particularly the casino sections of its numerous integrated resorts. So it is unsurprising that the pandemic hit the Macanese Special Administrative Region of China like a cartoon anvil. But there are now good reasons for hope in Macau.

There have been recent setbacks too. A packaging issue has halted the current round of Pfizer/Bio-N-Tech vaccinations in Macau and Hong Kong for example. This must come as a frustration to a casino industry that has had to deal with a lot in the last fourteen months.

However, officials were keen to emphasize that the risks were low. The halt was born out of an abundance of caution. Hong Kong’s government said that it was merely "for the sake of precaution, that the current vaccination must be suspended during the period of investigation."

Macau also suffered as China killed its visa program periodically over that period. Every time China pulled the plug, it cut Macau off from its largest market and closest population of gamblers. Then the Chinese government turned its attention to the junket rackets and the underground FX system that the junkets created. The result was even fewer customers with access to even fewer Macanese patacas. However, China has now fully re-opened its borders to Macau. The visitor permission scheme is back indefinitely.

Macanese tourism hits post-COVID peak

Although the visitor numbers have been cripplingly low for over a year now, they are showing signs of climbing . In fact, last week came with the highest tourism numbers since COVID began. It also contained the highest daily number of tourists for the same period.

Saturday, March 20, had a seven-day total of 32,016 visitors. This was the 14-month high until the Friday. On March 26, the seven-day total broke 32,647 setting a new record.

The Macau Government Tourist Office seemed optimistic in its statement on the subject .

"The figures suggest a steady upward trend in visitor arrivals recently," the MGTO began. "A greater flow of visitors can be observed in local tourist districts. The pandemic situation remains stable in the Mainland and Macau. All Mainland visitors are now exempt from quarantine in Macau following the reinstatement of travel permits for Mainland residents.

The MGTO is launching a number of deals and promotional ads in an attempt to build on this growth. Normality seems to be slowly returning.

Build it and they will come

Meanwhile, the Macanese government is pushing ahead with the Greater Bay Area Project.

This project is built around the success of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. This original bridge system must be a candidate for one of the Wonders of the World. The 55-kilometer complex is made up of three cable-stayed bridges, four artificial islands, and a 7 km undersea tunnel. All-in-all it makes up the longest unbroken open-sea fixed link in the world.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge opened in 2018, and the Macanese government is already looking to augment the road system. These augmentations will make up the Greater Bay Area Project. Using the bridge as a basis, the aim is to link up 11 cities in the Pearl River Basin with a similar over-sea and coastal road network.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp issued its annual report for 2020. It seems that the Sands Corp shares the MGTO's optimism. The report covers an enormous range of business concerns from listing off the awards their Macanese properties have picked up to listing off the litigation that remains pending against the group.

The assessment of the future opportunities in Macau included reviews of government infrastructure, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and Greater Bay Area Project. The endorsement has given much-needed private sector support to the project.

Sands owns the largest number of hotel rooms — 12,000 of them — in the Macanese SAR. So, it is likely to be one of the biggest benefactors of the project.

Featured image source: Flickr