The government of Macau has already handed to the central government a proposal seeking to “improve” the issuance of visas to travellers from mainland China, said Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng (pictured).
“We have handed a proposal and I have talked to the authorities in Beijing; our policy … is to improve” the inbound visa policy, Mr Tam told Portuguese news agency Lusa on Friday.
Mr Tam did not share any details about the proposal, saying only that the government wants to attract more tourists from outside China.
Macau welcomed a record 31.5 million visitors last year, with more than 21.2 million, or 67 percent, coming from mainland China. There was a 14 percent rise in mainland visitors compared to 2013 according to data from the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
But Macau gross gaming revenue (GGR) fell 2.6 percent percent year-on-year in 2014. The Macau government has implied Macau’s GGR could fall by as much as 32 percent this year according to analysts. Several have noted that any cap on visitors would not be helpful for the local gaming sector.
On Friday, Mr Tam said the next step in the process of improving the visa issuance system is now up to Beijing.
Mr Tam first mentioned the possibility of Macau introducing limits to the number of visitors in February. The official later used different words, stating that Macau and Beijing needed to “improve” the issuance of visas to individual travellers from mainland China under the mainland’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS).
The IVS allows mainland Chinese living in eligible areas of the mainland to apply for a travel permit to visit Macau or Hong Kong as independent travellers rather than as part of a tour group. The number of mainland cities under the scheme currently stands at 49.
Chinese state media reported earlier this month that China would limit the number of visits that residents of the southern city of Shenzhen can make to neighbouring Hong Kong. China’s Ministry of Public Security’s Exit-Entry Administration Bureau will restrict residents to one Hong Kong visit a week with immediate effect, compared with an unlimited number of daily trips previously, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said. Some Hong Kong residents have staged street protests complaining of overcrowding in suburban Hong Kong shopping areas.
But the chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp, Sheldon Adelson, doubts Macau will implement limits on the number of visitors coming to the city. In a conference call with analysts last week, Mr Adelson said such measure “has no chance, in my mind, whatsoever”.
A study by the city’s Institute for Tourism Studies concluded that what it called the optimum tourist carrying capacity of Macau stood at between 32.6 million and 33.7 million visitors in 2014, or 89,374 and 92,325 tourists a day.
Mr Tam, speaking at the Legislative Assembly in mid-April, said the city has the capacity to receive 21 million mainland visitors per year, taking into consideration the aggregate number of visitors in 2014 and the tourist carrying capacity suggested by the IFT report. But that number could increase once the city’s transport infrastructure is improved, he added.
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