Visitor arrivals to Macau during the Chinese New Year holiday period increased by 26.6 percent from a year earlier, passing the one-million mark for the first time, according to data consulted by GGRAsia.
Preliminary figures from the city’s Public Security Police show Macau recorded 1.21 million visitor arrivals between February 4 and February 10, the seven days of the Chinese New Year holiday period. The figures were reported on Monday by the Macao Government Tourism Office.
Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a note also on Monday that the surge in visitor arrivals during the Chinese New Year holiday period had not supported a similar increase in casino gross gaming revenue (GGR). The brokerage added it was now estimating that Macau’s casino industry would post year-on-year GGR growth of between 2 percent and 5 percent for full February.
“Average daily rate during the [period] of February 1-10, which encompassed all of Spring Festival Golden Week (February 4–10), was approximately MOP840 million [US$103.9 million],” analysts Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu said, quoting data from unofficial industry channels. “Month-to-date mass GGR is estimated to be up modestly by low-single digits of percent month on month, whereas VIP volume is up high-single digits of percent month-on-month.”
They added: “While visitation was robust during holiday period, many high rollers have stayed away from Macau (as is frequently the case). We are likely to see some strengthening in high end play during the second half of this month.”
A total of 74.1 percent of the arrivals during the holiday period this year – amounting to around 899,000 instances – were by visitors from mainland China, representing a year-on-year increase of 25.6 percent for that group.
The week-long holiday period is usually a peak season for Macau’s gaming industry as hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists take advantage of the week-long break to visit the city. China’s State Council has designated the 2019 Chinese New Year festive period as running from February 4 until February 10.
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.
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), noted on Friday that arrival figures for the Chinese New Year period that had been collected up to that date were beyond what had been expected by her bureau. Ms Senna Fernandes had previously said that the city could see an “8 percent to 9 percent” year-on-year increase in visitor arrivals for the 2019 Chinese New Year holiday.
The tourism boss referred to the recently-opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as an element in the year-on-year expansion of visitor numbers for this year’s week-long festive period. The bridge, which spans 55 kilometres (34 miles) of the Pearl River Delta, offers a more direct road route to Macau from Hong Kong and its major airport, than has been available hitherto. It opened to traffic on October 24.
The preliminary data reported on Monday by MGTO show that an aggregate of approximately 192,000 visitors arrived in Macau via the bridge during the Chinese New Year holiday period. Only the Gongbei border gate on Macau peninsula – the land crossing to and from Zhuhai in China’s Guangdong province – recorded more visitor arrivals during the period, handling more than 601,000 visitors, according to the preliminary figures.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés