The head of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) on Wednesday forecast that the number of visitors to Macau would grow by 5 percent in 2015.
Macau saw a 7.5 percent jump in visitors during 2014, to 31.5 million arrivals, said Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of MGTO. Some 21 million mainland Chinese visited Macau last year – a 14.1 percent increase on 2013, and representing 67 percent of the 2014 visitor tally.
MGTO also expects all visitors during the first seven days of this Chinese New Year in early February, to rise by 5 percent year-on-year to 840,000, from 800,000 in the first seven days of the prior-year festival.
Investment analysts are currently estimating that Macau gaming revenue for the whole of 2015 is likely to fall by between 4 percent and 8 percent year-on-year. If the general prediction of year-on-year decline comes to pass, it would continue a trend seen last year of rising visitor numbers but falling gaming revenue.
Ms Senna Fernandes said she didn’t regard that as a bad sign, but rather as an indication that people come to the city for reasons other than gambling.
“The growing momentum of mainland tourists was especially strong. We are thrilled to know tourists don’t necessarily come here to gamble,” she told a press conference.
The central government has repeatedly called for Macau to diversify its tourism-focused economy away from gambling.
One way to achieve that, suggest analysts, is to provide more hotel accommodation for general visitors.
The average occupancy rate of hotels in Macau in 2014 was 86.5 percent, up by 3.4 percentage points year-on-year. The average room rate of three- to five-star hotels was US$199.90, up by 8.6 percent year-on-year.
MGTO said yesterday that currently Macau has 103 hotels offering 28,892 rooms in total. But only 5 percent of that room capacity is for budget stays. A total of 46 “budget accommodation establishments” provide just 1,500 rooms, said the tourist office.
Traditionally around two-thirds of Macau casino revenue has been provided by high rollers – a visitor group believed to be statistically small. In 2014, the proportion of VIP play declined, so that 60.5 percent of Macau’s US$44 billion gross gaming revenue came from VIP gambling.
Arrivals from Hong Kong, Macau’s second biggest source of visitors, dropped for the last three consecutive years and were down 5 percent to 6.4 million last year from 2013, show the latest data. In 2014, international visitor numbers in Macau fell 1.1 per cent year-on-year.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China