Visitors to Macau spent MOP15.5 billion (US$1.9 billion), excluding gaming expenses, in the third quarter of 2014, up by 4.6 percent from a year earlier, official data show.
Total spending by visitors is rising and the overall number of tourist arrivals has also been going up at a time when casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) shows the most sustained retreat since 2009.
Casino GGR in Macau dropped by 23 percent year-on-year in October, making it the fifth consecutive month that GGR has declined judged against year prior periods.
The data published this week however show that per capita spending of visitors fell by 1.4 percent year-on-year to MOP1,878 in the third quarter, a drop that can be explained by the increase in the number of arrivals.
The number of visitors to Macau grew by 6.1 percent year-on-year to 8.2 million in the third quarter of 2014. Visitor arrivals are up 7.4 percent, to 23.5 million in the nine months to September 30, show data from the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
The biggest-spending visitors were mainlanders, with outlay on non-gaming products of MOP2,220 per head. Shopping accounted for 57 percent of their total spending.
Market wide in Macau, shopping accounted for 49 percent of overall spending in the three months to September 30, followed by accommodation at 26 percent.
Spending on gaming has been much softer judged year-on-year. In October the mass market – which had been growing year-on-year even as VIP gambling was retreating – dropped about 8 percent year-on-year, according to unofficial industry returns. That, coupled with the continued retreat in VIP play, has led analysts to cut their estimates for full-year Macau GGR growth in 2014.
Contributing factors in the decline include the smoking ban on casino mass floors in place since October 6; the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and tighter credit conditions in mainland China, investment analysts on Wednesday told the audience at a conference panel during the Macao Gaming Show.
But the slowdown in casino revenue since June “doesn’t appear to have anything to do with visitation [to Macau], which continues to be strong,” Standard Chartered analyst Philip Tulk said.
“It’s more about spending, and that’s why we come back to the mass side and the anti-corruption drive [in mainland China] which seems to be leading individuals in a kind of self governance in terms of the way they access funds in Macau and the way they bet those funds,” he added.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings