Macau might see an “8 percent to 10 percent” year-on-year increase in visitor arrivals for the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday, said Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (pictured in a file photo), director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
Her comments were made on the Wednesday edition of a live talk show hosted every weekday by the Chinese-language radio service of Macau public broadcaster TDM.
Ms Senna Fernandes clarified she was referring to a period from lunar new year eve – February 4 – until February 11. China’s State Council has designated the 2019 Chinese New Year festive period as running from February 4 – a Monday – until February 10 – a Sunday.
The tourism boss referred to the recently-opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as a factor in the likely year-on-year expansion of visitor numbers for Chinese New Year.
“We believe that its popularity,” as a point of entry “will not have receded by then and we are estimating approximately 8 percent to 10 percent growth in visitor numbers compared to the same period last year,” said Ms Senna Fernandes while on air.
The MGTO director added she believed the bridge had helped to boost the visitor tallies for November and December, which had respectively seen “double-digit” year-on-year increases. The bridge, which spans 55 kilometres (34 miles) of the Pearl River Delta, offers a more direct road route from Hong Kong and its major airport to Macau than has been available hitherto. It opened to traffic on October 24.
Macau welcomed more than 960,000 visitors during the week-long Chinese New Year festive period in February last year. The tally was up by 6.5 percent year-on-year, higher than the forecast made by Ms Fernandes prior to the 2018 holiday.
The Chinese New Year break is typically a busy period for Macau’s casinos, as thousands of mainland Chinese visitors flock to the city to test their luck for the coming 12 months. The average hotel occupancy rate for last year’s holiday was 94.5 percent across Macau hotels and guest houses. For five-star hotels, it was 95.9 percent.
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.
Speaking during TDM’s Wednesday broadcast, Ms Senna Fernandes noted that – notwithstanding the likely increase in visitor numbers – tourists’ appetite for spending might be dulled by concerns about mainland China’s economy. A number of investment analysts covering the Macau casino market have said the United States’s trade war with China could hurt gaming and non-gaming spending in the city, given the importance of the mainland Chinese visitor market.
Ms Senna Fernandes also made brief comment on Wednesday regarding a visitor survey conducted by MGTO. It indicated that the Ruins of St Paul’s – part of Macau’s UNESCO World Heritage Site in the old town – and the Cotai Strip – a landfill area that has become Macau’s modern-era gaming hub with a collection of large-scale casino resorts – are number one and two respectively in terms of popularity with tourists. The official did not mention when the survey was conducted or what was the profile of the visitors responding to the survey.
Official data on Macau’s full-year visitor arrival numbers for 2018 are likely to be released by the city’s Statistics and Census Service later this month.
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