The total number of tourist arrivals to Macau in the seven days of the Chinese New Year holiday, from January 27 to February 2 inclusive, rose by 9.9 percent year-on-year to 935,266.
The first day of the Chinese New Year holiday fell on January 28 this time. While the holiday is calculated via a lunar calendar and the dates vary from year-to-year, the latest numbers – reported by the Macao Government Tourism Office – are judged against the equivalent Chinese New Year period in 2016.
A total of 70.9 percent of the arrivals in the January 27 to February 2 period this year – amounting to 662,814 instances – were by visitors from mainland China, representing a year-on-year increase of 13.8 percent for that group.
The figures were recorded by Macau’s Public Security Police, and measured the number of tourists passing through border checkpoints around the city. The tally excludes Macau non-resident employees and students.
According to the tourism bureau, the average rate of year-on-year growth in arrivals picked up in the latter part of the festive period. It rose from an average of 2.4 percent for the January 27 to 29 period.
The Chinese New Year period is usually a peak season for Macau’s gaming industry as hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists take advantage of the week-long break to visit the city.
Investment analysts however have noted in previous commentary on Macau that there need not be a direct correlation between numbers of tourists to Macau and gaming spend in casinos. This is because research indicates that high-stakes play by a relatively small number of visitors is still an important component of the market. Nonetheless, investors like to track Macau’s visitor numbers and gross gaming revenue (GGR) performance during Chinese New Year, for clues to possible trends in the rest of the calendar year.
Casino GGR in Macau rose by 3.1 percent year-on-year in January to MOP19.26 billion (US$2.41 billion), according to data released on February 1 by the city’s regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
“While January came in below expectations, there are plenty of moving pieces,” said a Friday note from analyst Cameron McKnight of brokerage Wells Fargo Securities LLC.
He added it was possible “the Street [investors] mismodelled the calendar shift this year; [that] revenues were weaker than modelled in the week leading into Chinese New Year; and [that] revenues could sharply inflect during the main Chinese New Year [casino demand period] this week.”
Mr McKnight further stated: “Our proprietary, forward Macau hotel rate survey shows rates at the large Macau hotels are down 40 percent year-on-year this Chinese New Year. This [finding] is an outlier, as our survey had been improving since new hotel supply came online in the autumn.”
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance