Jan 31, 2023 Newsdesk Latest News, Singapore, Top of the deck
Mainland Chinese visitors to Singapore will in likelihood have a “positive” impact this year on the operations and earnings of Singapore’s two integrated resorts (IRs), suggests a Monday report from Maybank Investment Bank Bhd. But such tourists, who in pre-pandemic trading in 2019 may have contributed an estimated 25 percent of gross gaming revenue (GGR) for the city-state’s casino duopoly, may rebound to pre-pandemic volume “only in 2024”.
In the Malaysia market, where the Resorts World Genting complex has a casino monopoly, the bank said “we do not expect the return of Chinese visitors… to greatly impact its operations and earnings positively,” adding that in 2019, Chinese hotel guests accounted for 2 percent, or half a million guest stays, and about 4 percent of all visitors to the property.
Nonetheless, as Resorts World Genting “makes available another 2,500 rooms, we expect Resorts World Genting operations, revenue and earnings to continue improving,” stated the investment bank. “We expect Resorts World Genting to welcome 26.2 million visitors in 2023 … 2.0 million more visitors than in 2019 thanks to Genting SkyWorlds theme park.”
The wide-ranging report also mentioned that – were Thailand to move ahead with legalising casino resorts – they could be a competitive threat to Singapore and Malaysia.
For the Singapore casino market – shared between Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands – the economic “quality” of those mainland Chinese that do come for the time being, could be affected by factors including decline in mainland China property values, an asset class historically a source of liquidity for Chinese gamblers.
Another inhibiting factor was likely to be a general dampening on China’s economic outlook including its manufacturing, linked to the lengthy though now-discontinued ‘zero-Covid’ protocols. That is according to Maybank analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang.
“Even those Chinese wealthy enough to pay elevated airfares to travel abroad will be met by currently high room rates in Singapore, limiting their gaming budget,” wrote the analyst, citing room rate data from the Singapore Tourism Board.
He added: “We believe it reasonable to expect Chinese visitors to return to Singapore at 2019 levels only in 2024. By then, more aircraft would have been returned to service and airfares would have eased.”
Maybank’s paper cited a survey published in January from China-focused marketing and research business Dragon Tail International, called “Chinese Traveler Sentiment Report”. The report listed Singapore as the “seventh most popular”destination Chinese would like to visit this year.
The research suggested that among the 1,058 valid responses received from Chinese consumers during the sampling period from January 4 to 7, only circa 60 percent intended to travel abroad. Of those, a total of 4.2 percent identified Singapore as the preferred destination. Of that cohort, 88 percent would be first-time visitors to the city-state.
Nonetheless, Singapore’s international visitor arrivals for 2023 are forecast to double at least, to between 12 million and 14 million, relative to the 6.3 million achieved in 2022, said the Singapore Tourism Board in mid-January.
In the first quarter of 2019, visitors from the Chinese mainland were the largest-single component of Singapore’s tourism market, accounting for circa 960,000 arrivals, or about 20 percent, of the approximately 4.7 million arrivals in that period.
Excluding “sightseeing, entertainment and gaming” they spent just over SGD1.09 billion (US$832.0 million) in that quarter, according to tourism board data.
“In 2019, we understand that Chinese visitors contributed circa 25 percent of industry GGR amounting to circa SGD1.5 billion,” wrote Maybank’s Mr Yin.
He added: “Chinese property prices and manufacturing have a strong correlation with Macau GGR, which we believe is a good indicator of Chinese visitors’ propensity to gamble.”
A more bullish view of the Singapore market is that “China’s lifting of its strict ‘zero-Covid’ policy and its efforts to revive its property sector will create new Chinese VIPs that will be inclined to gamble in Singapore,” stated the analyst.
“We beg to differ,” said Mr Yin, citing factors including “still tepid year-on-year growth in China M2 money supply,” which historically “precedes Macau VIP GGR year-on-year growth by two quarters”.
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