Macau’s visitor tally for full-year 2020 could see “over 90 percent” decline year-on-year, but the city would not relax “too easily” its current entry restrictions facing tourists, due to public health concerns amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, said on Monday Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (pictured in a file photo), director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
“We estimated that… compared with last year, the decline for this year should be over 90 percent,” said Ms Senna Fernandes to local media on the sidelines of a Monday event.
In the first eight months of this year, just above 3.57 million visitors entered the territory, a year-on-year decline of 87.0 percent, according to data released in late September. Autumn Golden Week maintained the year-on-year trend of decline, relative to what is a higher-volume period for tourism.
Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue for the first nine months of 2020 stood at nearly MOP38.61 billion (US$4.8 billion), down 82.5 percent from the prior-year period.
The tourism bureau boss nonetheless observed in her Monday remarks: “The [local] public also would not want to see us relaxing too easily our entry restrictions, because they are still concerned about the pandemic.”
The tourism official also said that Macau had not had discussions with “any places” beyond mainland China, in relation to forming a “travel bubble” for quarantine-free movement in either direction. The mainland is currently Macau’s only travel-bubble partner.
Mainland visitors to Macau must have a certificate for freedom from Covid-19 infection – issued within seven days of intended arrival – in order to enjoy quarantine-free movement.
Only on September 23 did the authorities in mainland China – from where most of Macau’s visitors are drawn – fully reinstate the application process for travel visas for leisure trips to Macau, including the Individual Visit Scheme visas . That exit visa system from the mainland had been suspended in late January, amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Currently, anyone wishing to visit Macau via Hong Kong must have a certificate for freedom from Covid-19 infection, issued within 24 hours of intended arrival. Even then, such travellers would still need to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Holders of overseas passports are currently barred from entering Macau, unless they also have Macau ID, and even then they would need to undergo a 14-day quarantine in hotel accommodation requisitioned by the city’s government.
In her Monday comments to the media, Ms Senna Fernandes said the Macau government’s priority was to “safeguard” local residents’ from exposure to Covid-19. Meanwhile the local authorities would continue the work of restoring the confidence of mainland China tourists in the safety of a trip to Macau, she said.
Credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings Inc said in a Monday note about the outlook for tourism in the Asia-Pacific region: “The resumption of travel visas to Macau for visitors from mainland China, is paving the way for a slow return of short-distance gaming tourism to the territory, which should extend into first-half 2021.”
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