The director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (pictured), has praised the city’s casino operators for their efforts so far in attracting more international visitors to the city. The official told GGRAsia that while the government did not have a long-term goal for the mix between international visitors and those coming from Greater China, an immediate target was to increase the market share of international arrivals to around 10 percent of the overall visitor volume.
“First, we want to get back to the 10 percent or so we had before the pandemic,” Ms Senna Fernandes told GGRAsia. “Beyond that, we will, step by step, make an effort to increase the weight of this segment. Of course, this will not be easy.”
In 2019, the trading year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Macau had 39.4 million visitor arrivals. Of those, the ‘Greater China’ region – the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan – accounted for 92.2 percent. The balance, 7.8 percent, were from overseas, with South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia being the major source markets.
As part of the tender process for the new gaming concessions, which started their 10-year term on January 1, the Macau government asked applicants to work to increase the number of overseas gamblers served by the city’s casino resorts. The updated regulatory framework has made possible distinct gambling zones for foreigners within Macau casinos, with the possibility that operators can apply for a lower tax rate on gross gaming revenue on such play.
Macau’s six casino concessionaires have in aggregate committed to the city’s government to invest MOP118.8 billion (US$14.9 billion) over the course of the new 10-year permits. As part of these investment amounts, the companies have announced plans to set up a number of overseas offices and target international customer markets, including Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India, and Thailand.
Asked if casino operators were meeting the goals stated in their concession contracts regarding attracting international visitors to Macau, Ms Senna Fernandes replied: “I think so.”
She added: “It is the first year [of the new concession contracts]. We are all trying to find the best way to work together… But so far, everyone has a very open mindset.”
Ms Senna Fernandes said so far casino operators had been supportive of initiatives by the Macao Government Tourism Office to promote the city overseas, with casino firms joining promotion events in several key markets.
Following roadshows in Portugal and Thailand earlier this year, Macau’s tourism office is holding a four-day roadshow in Seoul, South Korea, starting on Friday (14 July). All six gaming operators will be exhibiting at the event.
“The whole industry collaborates with us,” Ms Senna Fernandes told GGRAsia. “Of course, the six gaming operators have larger [promotional] budgets” than other Macau-based companies, she said, adding that casino firms also had “large networks” worldwide, helping them to tap into international tourist markets.
In June, Macau operator Sands China Ltd organised a three-day ‘Macau showcase’ promotional activity at the Marina Bay Sands casino resort in Singapore. The firm invited 200 people from Macau small- and medium-sized enterprises, associations, and media outlets to take part in the event, in order to promote their offerings to the Singapore market. Sands China’s parent, Las Vegas Sands Corp, runs the Marina Bay Sands property.
For the first six months of this year, Macau’s visitor tally reached 11.6 million. For full-year 2023, the tourism authority is anticipating that the city will see an aggregate 24 million visitor arrivals. That would represent nearly 61 percent of the visitor tally in 2019.
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