The Hong Kong government’s cautious and phased lifting of quarantine-on-arrival for travellers from Guangdong province and Macau, is unlikely have any meaningful impact on visitor numbers in the opposite direction, and thus be of no benefit to Macau’s tourism sector, said brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, in a Wednesday note.
But the institution stated that what it called a “baby step” toward “reopening” of travel within the region, was still a “positive” in terms of public policy.
The Macau-Hong Kong border is not technically closed for residents of the two places, but quarantine protocols have effectively rendered travel impractical.
On Tuesday the Hong Kong government said it planned to allow “non-Hong Kong residents” originating from either Guangdong province or Macau to go to Hong Kong without compulsory quarantine-on-arrival, albeit with a daily quota limit. The unilateral initiative, dubbed “Come2hk”, is expected to start from September 15.
With effect from Wednesday, Hong Kong restarted its so-called “Return2hk” scheme, that allows Hong Kong residents working in either mainland China or Macau, to travel inbound to Hong Kong, quarantine-free.
“To be clear, these schemes [Come2hk and Return2hk] are designed primarily for those who have families or business in Hong Kong, not for tourists,” as under current rules, such travellers would “still need to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon return to China,” wrote JP Morgan analysts DS Kim, Amanda Cheng, and Livy Lyu in the Wednesday note.
At best, such a move was “effectively a reduction in the total quarantine” period required for such cross-border movement, “from 28 days to 14 days, and, in our view, [is] unlikely to help” Macau’s visitor volumes, “in any meaningful way,” they added.
“Nonetheless, this is directionally positive and signals that the authorities might be comfortable about (very) gradually reopening the border, in our view,” further noted the JP Morgan team.
Macau retains for now its 14-day quarantine for those permitted to enter Macau via Hong Kong. Mainland China is currently the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with Macau.
The JP Morgan team believed that “gradual border/visa normalisation” for Hong Kong-Macau-China travels is possible “over the next six months or so”, given “solid” trends in terms of Covid-19 vaccination rates in China and Hong Kong.
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