A survey conducted by the Chinese government and publicised this week, suggests that residents of Guangdong province – the mainland jurisdiction nearest to Macau and Hong Kong – remain confident in their consumer spending.
But travel beyond the mainland’s boundaries – including to the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong, Macau – was not a declared option for a majority of those from Guangdong province planning a trip for this year, according to the poll. It is possible that some of those surveyed might have preferred not to tick the answer that mentioned Macau among a cohort of nearby destinations. Frequently, surveys of inbound tourists to Macau find only a minority of those polled declaring gambling as a reason for the visit.
The Guangdonger consumer findings were released in a summary by the Survey Office of the National Bureau of Statistics in Guangdong on its official website on Wednesday. The office did not specify when the survey was conducted, but it noted that a total of 2,000 households from the province had been sampled, with 1,400 being based in cities or towns and the remainder being from villages.
As the summary did not offer any comparative data for 2018 or earlier, it was not possible to surmise whether particular factors – such as the United States-China trade war – might have played a role in the declarations of those polled.
The Survey Office said the research sought to understand Guangdong households’ expenditure estimates and plans this year.
According to the Survey Office’s summary, 41.0 percent of the polled households said they intended to travel during 2019. A majority of these respondents was either from the cities of Guangzhou or Shenzhen, or other major settlements in the Pearl River Delta region. Of the trip-planning households, only about a third declared plans to travel abroad in 2019, with the rest saying they were opting for domestic trips.
Of the surveyed households that had plans to travel abroad this year, 73 percent said they would choose to go either to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea or nearby destinations in Southeast Asia. The remaining 27 percent of declared travellers indicated plans for long-haul destinations such as Europe, the U.S. or the Middle East.
In its Wednesday statement, the Survey Office remarked that Guangdong had “topped” the list of mainland provinces supplying the greatest number of outbound Chinese tourists “in recent years”.
Macau’s Guangdong market
According to Macau’s Statistics and Census Service, the city received 4.04 million visitors from Guangdong province in the first four months this year, a tally that represented 41.3 percent of Macau’s 9.79-million inbound travellers from mainland China recorded in the period. The number of inbound visitors from Guangdong recorded in the January to April period represented a rise of 16.6 percent year-on-year.
Andy Wu Keng Kuong, president of the Macau Travel Industry Council, told GGRAsia that 2019 inbound travel to Macau – including by people from Guangdong – was likely to be stimulated by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and other infrastructure improvements in the Pearl River Delta region. He noted Macau was increasingly hosting events that appealed to inbound travellers.
“I think it’s possible that Macau will see more than 40 million visitors for this year,” of all types Mr Wu remarked to us, in line with an estimate earlier this year from the the Macao Government Tourism Office that 2019 visitor numbers might top 38 million.
“For Guangdong travellers, destinations like Hong Kong and Macau are the ones where they can make repeated visits within a year, which is not like Japan or South Korea where they need to fly for several hours,” Mr Wu added.
The Survey Office poll in Guangdong attempted to assess household disposable income relative to household members’ willingness to travel outside the mainland. About 27 percent of those responding households where the per-capita disposable income was below CNY30,000 (about US$4,350) said they had plans to travel outside the mainland this year. Nearly 49 percent of surveyed households with per-capita disposable income between CNY30,000 to CNY50,000 planned to do so.
Guangdong-based visitors to Macau arriving under China’s Individual Visit Scheme exit visa had, on average, the highest per capita expenditure in Macau, standing at MOP1,998 (US$249), according to the first-quarter visitor expenditure survey done by Macau’s census service. For the Guangdong individual travellers that stayed in Macau overnight, their per-capita expenditure was MOP3,387.
“Compared to Hong Kong, Macau’s hotel room rate is similar; though costs on food and beverage in Macau is a bit more pricy than Hong Kong,” Mr Wu said.
The travel industry trade chamber head also believed that Macau’s hotel operators have been cautious in raising room rates, as Chinese visitors could exit the city “more easily” than previously, thanks to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the expected advent of a 24-hour land crossing between Macau and next-door Zhuhai in Guangdong. Currently, 24-hour passage is only possible at the boundary between Hengqin Island and Macau.
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"People are still pretty reserved in their [gaming] spending. And what the [junket] sector faces now is that the collection of [gaming] debt is difficult"
Kwok Chi Chung
President of the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters