Macau’s ‘bubble’ for quarantine-free travel to the city by Chinese tourists is being widened from Wednesday (September 23), with the restart by mainland authorities country-wide of applications for the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) exit visa programme.
A condition of quarantine-free travel for successful IVS applicants is that they must have a test certificate – issued within seven days of intended arrival in Macau – proving freedom from Covid-19 infection. Such a certificate must also be produced by any person wishing to enter any of Macau’s gaming venues.
Earlier incremental easing of mainland-Macau inbound travel for tourism purposes had seen first a ‘bubble’ involving neighbouring Zhuhai in Guangdong province, then IVS applications being restarted for the whole of Guangdong, with effect from August 26.
Group tour visitors from the mainland can only cross the border to Macau via either the Hengqin checkpoint, or the Macau-Zhuhai checkpoint on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, according to a Macau government statement.
Earlier this month, Macau’s flag-carrier airline, Air Macau, said it would during September resume flights to a number of cities in mainland China, coinciding with the return nationwide of the IVS programme for tourists from those parts of China deemed economically qualified to send out independent travellers.
A number of investment analysts has cautioned that the national reinstatement of IVS was not an instant fix for the recovery of Macau gaming revenue, which declined 81.6 percent year-on-year in the first eight months of this year.
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a Monday note that the national return of IVS should “boost” Macau visitor volume “by mid-October”, i.e., after China’s autumn Golden Week holiday, which runs from October 1 to 8 this year. Several senior executives from the Macau casino sector have said they expect Golden Week casino gross gaming revenue to be only about a third of the volume seen in the same holiday season in 2019.
Sanford Bernstein said it was currently taking “approximately 10 days” for the mainland authorities to process IVS requests. But the institution noted that the visitor increase seen in August and early September was “not directly tied to gaming customers, as many visitors coming in are largely” on “family- or business-related,” trips.
The institution said that since Zhuhai and Guangdong tourism visa issuance resumed on August 12 and August 26, respectively, the average daily tally of visitors to Macau had “climbed to 17,457 (September 15), 18,400 (September 16), 16,713 (September 19), [and] 11,900 (September 20),” up from approximately 5,000 daily in early August and fewer than 1,000 in June.
Macau recorded 227,113 visitor arrivals in August, up 206.9 percent on the prior month, said a Monday announcement from the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance