The Macau government has not yet scheduled talks with the central government in Beijing to discuss a potential cap on the number of mainland visitors coming to the city, said the head of the Macau tourism agency.
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (pictured), director of the Macau Government Tourist Office, told local reporters so on Wednesday.
“We should focus on thinking about [how to deal with] so many visitors entering the city during holidays… The most important thing is how to improve our tourism environment and minimise the impact on local residents’ lives,” Ms Senna Fernandes said, quoted by English-language newspaper Macau Post Daily.
She added: “Visitors who come to Macau want to have a comfortable trip… They don’t want to see so many people, they want to have a relaxing trip.”
Ms Senna Fernandes said that before any cap was introduced, the government would conduct a public consultation and also discuss the issue with representatives from the city’s tourism industry.
Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, last week announced that the government wanted to impose a limit on the number of mainland tourists that visit Macau.
The announcement came on the heels of the overcrowding faced at Macau’s borders and main tourist spots during the Lunar Chinese Year festive season, which started on February 19.
Mr Tam told reporters that the Macau government planned to discuss soon the issue with China’s central government. He said no cap had yet been decided and that limits could vary for different seasons of the year. Mr Tam added he hoped the cap could be introduced this year.
Macau hosted a record 31.5 million visitors last year. Visitors from mainland China accounted for over two thirds of the total.
According to data from the city’s Public Security Police, total arrivals to Macau – excluding Macau residents – between February 18 and February 24 were down 2.4 percent year-on-year to almost 1.03 million.
The figures, published on the website of the Macau Government Tourist Office, show that mainland Chinese accounted for 74 percent of all arrivals during the period, a 2.0 percent year-on-year decrease. The data however include other arrivals to the city, such as of Macau imported workers and overseas students.
A cap on the number of mainland visitors entering Macau would affect both the number of VIP gamblers and the number of mass casino players, Japanese brokerage Nomura warned earlier this week.
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"The Hong Kong protests may hurt Macau gross gaming revenue by about mid-single-digit (i.e., half of maximum visitation exposure), which should fade away gradually as people will find alternative ways to visit Macau”
DS Kim, Jeremy An and Christine Wang
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd