The Macau government plans to allow quarantine-free inbound travel via Hong Kong, provided visitors comply with rules including limiting their movements to casino resorts or general hotels, and that they avoid using hotel swimming pools, suggested brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd in a Wednesday note.
The system would be backed by an additional level of Macau’s colour-based health code system, especially for such visitors, according to several Hong Kong media reports.
“Our checks with some Macau hotels suggest the government sent out a notice a few days ago on a planned reopening of the border,” wrote JP Morgan analysts DS Kim, Derek Choi and Livy Lyu. While the border has not technically been closed, anyone coming to Macau via Hong Kong is currently being required to undergo a 14-day medical quarantine in arrival.
A number of investment analysts has said Hong Kong consumers have accounted for circa 10 percent-plus of Macau annual gross gaming revenue in pre-pandemic times.
The JP Morgan team added: “We believe a limited reopening scheme” between Hong Kong and Macau “could be applicable only to fully-vaccinated travellers, possibly including mainlanders entering from Hong Kong.”
As of Tuesday, only 21.4 percent of Hong Kong’s population had been fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data from the authorities there.
The analysts added that – based on their checks with some of Macau hotels – the proposed scheme would allow guests arriving via Hong Kong to “freely move within their hotel, likely including gaming floors and retail areas, but not the swimming pool.”
JP Morgan added that it was anticipated the scheme would “bar guests from leaving the property, in order to be exempted from the 14-day quarantine”.
Such an initiative would be a positive for Macau’s casino gaming sector, suggested the brokerage.
The authorities of Macau and Hong Kong have planned easing travel between the two cities, as the latter has recently seen low number of new Covid-19 infection cases.
Macau had flagged previously that Hong Kong would need to have 28 consecutive days of no new local Covid-19 infection cases before Macau would consider lifting its 14-day quarantine on arrival requirement for inbound visitors coming via Hong Kong. Also, any relaxation in travel rules would in likelihood apply to those that are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
MGTO confirms talks with local hotels
GGRAsia approached Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) about the reported communication to local hotels regarding the scheme. In its reply, MGTO did not address the specifics of the Hong Kong media reports and JP Morgan note.
But the body said in an email to GGRAsia that to “tie in with and be prepared for the plan” in relation to possible staged easing of rules for travel to Macau via Hong Kong, based on the latter city having 28 consecutive days with no community-based Covid-19 infection, “MGTO is currently in internal communication and discussion with local hotels and guesthouses” in Macau, for “feasible arrangements”.
It added that “given that the plan is in a stage of discussion,” MGTO was in touch with those establishments, asking them to “provide information,” but the tourism bureau stated it had “no information to announce to the public at this moment”.
Several Chinese-language media outlets in Hong Kong reported on Wednesday – citing anonymous sources – that quarantine-free Macau-Hong Kong travel in both directions could happen by mid-July, but with several restrictions.
Such easing would be “incrementally positive” to investor sentiment, as it “suggests the ’28-day rule’ [of no new local Covid-19 cases] is not a fixed policy and the pace of reopening could be more flexible – which is probably subject to the mainland’s policy/stance, in our view,” the JP Morgan analysts wrote.
Hong Kong’s significance lies in its status as a “travel and capital” channel for Chinese gamblers, the analysts noted.
“The said plan would benefit large-scale integrated resorts, such as Galaxy Macau, or Sands [China Ltd's] Venetian or Londoner [Macao] more than the others, as guests are likely to be asked to stay within the property,” JP Morgan suggested.
(Updated 7.10pm, June 30)
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