Lower cost compared to ferries – and convenience – were not the most common reasons for visitors to Macau to use the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau (HKZM) Bridge linking Hong Kong’s Lantau Island with Macau peninsula across the Pearl River Delta.
That is according to a survey of visitors – conducted at the time of their departure from Macau via the bridge (pictured) – by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
But the survey did flag what regular travellers between the places had already noticed: that passenger use of maritime ferries to move between the two special administrative regions of China has dramatically reduced since the 55-kilometre (34-mile) bridge opened to traffic.
The sea-crossing structure handled “over 14 million” passenger journeys and 1.5 million vehicles – since it started operating on October 24 last year, up to October 23 this year – Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua has reported. Most trips were between Macau and Hong Kong.
Macau is on course to receive an aggregate of about 40 million visits this year, according to MGTO. Some investment analysts covering the Macau casino market have said the bridge has incrementally increased the pool of visitors, although recent protests in Hong Kong might have had some dampening on demand among mainland tourists for two-city breaks they have noted.
“Visitors to Macau were inclined to harness the bridge for the major reason ‘out of curiosity to experience something new and the over [CNY]100-billion [US$14.3 billion] infrastructure across sea’, followed by other reasons, namely less travel time and expense,” said the tourism bureau’s survey of bridge users, the findings of which it released in summary form on Tuesday.
The poll summary stated: “Since opened, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has led to a shift in the travel pattern of visitors to Macau, including less frequent use of ferry terminals.”
The survey also indicated that – at least for those bridge users surveyed – “over 70 percent of visitors to Macau expressed that they would travel to Macau and Hong Kong in one trip”. The summary didn’t clarify what proportion of respondents were actually based in Hong Kong.
The study showed 42.7 percent of respondents stated that they would use “ferry terminals” – the Pac On facility at Taipa and the Outer Harbour terminal on Macau peninsula – “less frequently because of the opening of the bridge”.
Ferry vs HKZM Bridge
The summary added: “The travel pattern (by land versus by sea) has shown more drastic change especially among visitors from Hong Kong, with 60.6 percent expressing that they would use ferry terminals less frequently following the inauguration of the bridge.”
An off-peak round-trip economy-class fare on TurboJET ferry services between Sheung Wan ferry terminal in Hong Kong and the Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal at the Outer Harbour, can cost HKD331 (US$42.50) rising to as much as HKD411 for round-trip night-time sailings according to TurboJET’s website. Set against that, is that the ferry service takes passengers almost to the heart of the respective business districts of those cities.
The cost of using the buses traversing the actual span of the bridge from Hong Kong to Macau is low – HKD130 return in the day and HKD140 at night for a non-concessionary fare. But unless travellers are moving to and from Hong Kong International Airport, the bridge landing points are some distance from the respective tourist districts of the cities.
The survey indicated the “satisfaction level” of visitors regarding the experience of using the bridge itself “neared 90 percent”. The level of satisfaction towards the supporting transportation between the Macau side of the bridge and urban districts was “relatively lower” at 71.7 percent.
Those wishing to use an alternative: a through-bus round trip – via the bridge – from the most urbanised parts of Hong Kong, to – for example – Macau’s Cotai district, can expect to pay nearly as much as for a round-trip ferry booking.
MGTO’s survey of HKZM Bridge users was conducted on a face-to-face basis – at the point of their departure – from April to September 2019. A total of 3,070 valid questionnaires was completed.
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Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts