A group of Macau delegates to China’s National People’s Congress has urged the country’s central government to increase the number of cities covered by the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS).
Seven Macau delegates – including José Chui Sai Peng, a cousin of Macau’s Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On – put forward the proposal during this year’s meeting of the NPC, China’s top legislative body, Portuguese-language newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau reported.
The proposal maintained the number of visits to Macau per IVS visa at just one, according to the report.
Mainland China’s IVS system was introduced in 2003. It allows mainland Chinese living in eligible areas of the mainland to apply for a travel permit to visit Macau individually instead of having to be part of a tour group.
The system was first implemented in four Guangdong cities and expanded several times between July 2003 and January 2007. The number of cities under the IVS currently stands at 49.
The number of visitors arriving in Macau totalled 30.95 million for the full year of 2016, an increase of 0.8 percent year-on-year, official data show. The number of visitors from mainland China went up 0.2 percent year-on-year to 20.45 million. Such arrivals made up 66.1 percent of the annual total for the city.
In 2016, the number of mainland visitors travelling to Macau under the IVS system increased by 0.6 percent year-on-year to 9.58 million. Of such IVS visitors, 72.6 percent came from Guangdong, the Chinese province next door to Macau. Shanghai came in at a distant second, providing 4.9 percent of Macau’s IVS visitors for the year according to Macau government data.
IVS tourists are described by investment analysts as generally the Macau visitor segment most valuable to local casino resorts due to their higher spending power compared to package tour visitors.
Macau Chief Executive Mr Chui said in March last year the Macau government was as of that time not “actively requesting” the expansion of the IVS policy. Mr Chui made the comments following reports that China’s State Council would assess how to “optimise and adjust” the IVS policy for mainland visitors travelling to Hong Kong and Macau, as part of Beijing’s support to the regional economy of the Pearl River Delta.
In 2014, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said Beijing had agreed on a “temporary” freeze on the number of cities covered by the IVS.
Proprietary research by brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd published in 2015 indicated significant differences from city to city and province to province in mainland China in the timetable for granting IVS visas. The brokerage noted at the time that Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing administratively allowed IVS application “as frequently as one wishes,” while Guangdong was limiting its eligible residents to one IVS application every two months.
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