The number of overnight visitors from mainland China visiting Macau in August exceeded the number of same-day visitors from the mainland, according to data released on Friday by Macau’s Statistics and Census Service.
There were 991,500 overnighters from the mainland in August, compared to 987,800 day trippers.
Mainland Chinese were the largest single component of Macau’s visitors for the month, making up 68.7 percent of all tourists.
Judged on a cumulative basis for the eight months to August 31, same-day visitors from the mainland are still ahead of overnighters from the mainland in numbers terms, registering just under 7 million visits. Those from the mainland staying one night or more numbered approximately 6.56 million in the first eight months of 2016.
The total number of overnight visitors to Macau in August grew by 3.7 percent year-on-year to just under 1.48 million, which the statistics service said was the highest single-month figure since January 2008. The number of same-day visitors dropped by 12.6 percent year-on-year to 1,405,647.
The average length of stay of all types of visitor during August increased by 0.1 day judged year-on-year, to 1.2 days. The average stay of overnight visitors and same-day visitors was 2.1 days and 0.2 day respectively.
Overnight visitors to the city typically spend more than same-day ones, surveys have shown. And a number of investment analysts have recently said they see encouraging signs of improvement in terms of the quality of Macau visitors.
Until the 1.1 percent year-on-year increase seen in August in Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue (GGR), the city had experienced 26 straight months of GGR contraction year-on-year.
Christopher Jones of the Buckingham Research Group, said in a note on September 1 – following the release of Macau’s official August casino GGR data – that average per capita gaming spend per day probably increased by 1.1 percent year-on-year in August. He added that would mark the first such increase since May 2014, excluding Chinese New Year 2015.
A note on September 8, from Karen Tang of Deutsche Bank AG, suggested Macau was “now at the start of a mass-led GGR recovery”.
Quality versus quantity
Several analysts have noted that the mix of the Macau tourism market – in particular the number of high spending hotel stayers – is more meaningful to Macau casino operator earnings than the headline total number of visitors to the city.
The statistics service stated on Friday that during August, visitor arrivals of all types increased on aggregate by 3.1 percent month-on-month to 2.88 million, “due to the summer holidays”; but added the August tally was down 5.0 percent judged year-on-year.
The cumulative number of visitors to Macau for the first eight months of 2016 was flat judged year-on-year, at 20.44 million.
Analysts Praveen Choudhary, Alex Poon and Thomas Allen of banking group Morgan Stanley said in a Wednesday note – referring to pending projects that might be positive catalysts for the Macau tourism market, including the coming Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Macau’s under-construction light rail system: “We believe that in the absence of strong visitation growth (till infrastructure improves in 2018 to 2020), mass revenue growth will rely on spending per capita and mix shift (more overnight visitors/hotel guests).”
Jamie Soo and Adrian Chan, of Daiwa Securities Group Inc, raised in a Thursday note the spectre of further devaluation of China’s currency the yuan, relative to the U.S. dollar, which it said could have a negative affect on casino GGR in Macau. That revenue is mostly denominated in the Hong Kong dollar, a currency pegged to the U.S. greenback; and mostly supplied by customers from mainland China and Hong Kong.
“In recent quarters, the relative stability of the Chinese yuan helps explain the much-touted mass-market revenue ‘stabilisation’,” wrote the Daiwa analysts.
They noted that Daiwa chief economist Kevin Lai forecast the yuan would see “greater volatility and face the risk of a further 15 percent fall over the next 15 months”.
The Daiwa duo added: “As mainland China business accounts for over 90 percent of Macau’s GGR, Macau’s Hong Kong dollar-denominated mass-gaming GGR would see risks in the face of a big downward move in the Chinese yuan.”
In other developments, Macau’s statistics service reported on Friday – in its Gaming Sector Survey 2015 – that aggregate compensation for employees in the local industry had risen by 5.1 percent year-on-year, to MOP19.93 billion (US$2.49 billion). In the same time span, the total number of full-time employees had fallen by 2.7 percent, to 56,217. Employee compensation made up 19.6 percent of sector expenditure during the reporting period, the data showed.
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"The six Macau casino operators should not be penalised for upping expenditure on player incentives, so long as their EBITDA margins are not materially diluted”
George Choi and Ryan Cheung
Analysts at Citigroup