The year-on-year growth in Macau tourism arrivals for the first eight months of 2017 lagged the regional average as outlined in a bulletin from a United Nations body, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
But in terms of the growth trend identified specifically in Northeast Asia, Macau outperformed some of its immediate neighbours, including Hong Kong. That city recorded accumulated growth of only 1.9 percent in the same period, according to Hong Kong Tourism Board data.
In Macau, the aggregate tourism arrival growth for the January to August period was 4.4 percent, according to data issued previously by the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
According to several investment analysts covering the gaming sector, the majority of the gamblers in Macau casinos are tourists.
UNWTO said in an extract published on Monday from its World Tourism Barometer, that arrivals growth in Asia Pacific (APAC) as a whole in that period was 6 percent, but only 3 percent in Macau’s neighbourhood of Northeast Asia.
The body noted: “South Asia (+10 percent) led growth in Asia and the Pacific (+6 percent), followed by Southeast Asia (+8 percent) and Oceania (+7 percent), while results in Northeast Asia (+3 percent) were rather mixed.”
UNWTO has forecast that for full-year 2017, expansion in the number of Asia Pacific tourist arrivals will be between 5 percent and 6 percent.
In Macau, for the nine months to September 30 – the most recent data available – the annual growth has actually moderated to 4.2 percent, according to the statistics service. Macau’s data for October are due to be released from November 23 onward. In Hong Kong, tourism arrivals grew by only 2.2 percent year-on-year in the nine months to September 30, according to figures from that city’s tourism board.
UNWTO’s bulletin indicated that the pace of arrivals growth across Asia Pacific as a whole had been slowing judged year-on-year. Its regional growth forecast for 2017 was actually 220 basis points below the provisionally-reported 7.8 percent year-on-year expansion shown in Asia Pacific as a whole, in 2016.
UNWTO’s secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, reiterated in the latest edition of the World Tourism Barometer that quality of tourism in terms of economic benefits – and mass tourism’s impact on host communities – were also important factors in managing sector growth.
“As we draw to the end of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we must reflect on how to manage tourism in a responsible and sustainable way beyond 2017,” stated Mr Rifai.
“Maximising the social and economic benefits of tourism, while minimising any negative impacts on host communities and the environment should remain at the forefront of our efforts in the years to come, with policymakers, companies and travellers all contributing to this shared objective,” the secretary-general added.
In late September, the Macao Government Tourism Office published a 15-year master plan for the sector. It restated a previous estimate by the Macau government that total visitor arrivals to the city could reach 40 million in 2025, using the 2015 tally of 30.71 million as a base.
Some research done by Macau’s Institute for Tourism Studies, published in March 2015, indicated that Macau’s estimated optimal visitor carrying capacity in 2014 was 89,374 to 92,235 visitors per day, which translated to between 32.62 million and 33.70 million visitors per year.
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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