Visitor arrivals to Macau during the Chinese New Year holiday period are – according to the latest data available – down by 73.6 percent from a year earlier. The decline follows an outbreak of a newly-identified coronavirus that started in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. The outbreak has now spread across the country – with cases also detected in Macau and Hong Kong – and further afield.
The Chinese New Year festival had in the previous three years accounted for circa 6 percent of Macau’s annual gross gaming revenue (GGR), according to a Monday note from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. But the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is leading thousands of travellers to avoid Macau, following an aggregate of measures imposed either by the national government or local authorities in Macau to try to contain the outbreak of the newly-identified coronavirus.
A Wednesday note from Nomura’s Instinet LLC quoted casino executives in Macau as saying that gaming floors in the city were “very quiet”. The note added that operating expenses at the city’s casinos “now exceed gaming revenues”, due a slump in player numbers.
Casinos in Macau have continued to operate round-the-clock despite the coronavirus outbreak. Measures have however been introduced eyeing to ensure the safety of staff and patrons.
As of last week, Macau casino workers have been instructed by the local gaming regulator to wear protective facial masks while on duty. The Macau government has also issued an executive order banning from Macau casino premises anyone who has been to Hubei province within 14 days of their arrival in Macau.
Mainland visitor tally drops almost 80pct
Preliminary figures from the city’s Public Security Police show Macau welcomed 221,620 visitors between Friday (January 24) and Tuesday, the first five days of the Chinese New Year holiday period. The figures were reported on Wednesday by the Macao Government Tourism Office.
Fewer than 57.4 percent of the arrivals in the first five days of the holiday period this year – amounting to 127,149 instances – were by visitors from mainland China, representing a year-on-year decrease of 79.2 percent for that group.
The Chinese New Year holiday period is usually a peak season for Macau’s gaming industry as hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists take advantage of the week-long break to visit the city. China’s State Council had initially designated the 2020 Chinese New Year festive period as running from January 24 – the eve of Chinese New Year – until Thursday, January 30 inclusive.
The decline in visitor arrivals to Macau is likely to continue in the near term, as authorities in China have stopped issuing – until further notice – individual travel visas for visits to Macau by mainland residents. Tour groups from the mainland to Macau are also suspended. The authorities have said the measures are part of the package of initiatives to reduce travelling across China so to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading.
According to a Tuesday memo by JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, “Chinese visitors now need to obtain other types of permits/visas to enter Macau (such as transit, business or family visas, collectively accounting for 30 percent of Chinese visitors), which could be very inconvenient for gamblers.”
Starting from today (January 30) the number of daily ferry services between Macau and Hong Kong has been reduced, with some routes suspended. Air link services to mainland China are also being reduced.
There were seven confirmed cases of coronavirus in Macau as of Wednesday, all involving visitors from Wuhan. As of Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission had said there were 5,974 confirmed cases, within the country, and that death toll stood at 132.
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Analyst at Roth Capital Partners