Challenges remain for Macau’s casino and tourism sectors in the final period of this year, as would-be visitors to the city remain cautious regarding their travel plans due to an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in mainland China. That is according to people linked to the travel trade in Macau, in comments to GGRAsia.
China has recorded this week its highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020, despite stringent countermeasures being implemented nationwide. Several major cities including the capital Beijing and Guangzhou, in Macau’s neighbouring Guangdong province, are experiencing outbreaks.
But if the Guangdong authorities – a key source market for the city’s hospitality trade – are able to control the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak within December, Macau could still be able to see visitors return in higher numbers, said the two observers, the boss of Macau casino hotel Ponte 16, and a representative of the city’s travel trade chamber.
Since November 1, mainland China residents can apply to travel to Macau via the resumed use of ‘electronic visa equipment’, a “crucial step” to revive the city’s casino and leisure sectors, stated the deputy chairman and executive director of Success Universe Group Ltd, Hoffman Ma Ho Man. His company invests in and promotes casino hotel Ponte 16 on the Macau peninsula.
The resumption of the mainland e-visa channel to travel to Macau has helped boost Macau’s popularity as a holiday destination via online travel agencies, Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) director, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, said in an interview with local public broadcaster TDM Chinese radio.
But the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in the mainland has so far halted an uptick in the number of Chinese visitors. The city’s average daily volume of inbound visitors had been only circa “16,000” during November 17 to November 20, the period when the city hosted the annual major sports event, the Macau Grand Prix.
“If we see the number Covid-19 cases clamped down or stabilised in provinces like Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian in December,” said Mr Ma, there is “still hope” for Macau’s travel trade in the remainder of this year.
To date, mainland China remains the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with Macau. The latter’s government has stated on several occasions that its Covid-19 prevention policy is in line with mainland China’s.
Mainland China has recently started making adjustments to its “dynamic zero-Covid policy,” aimed at having the local authorities to exercise more targeted enforcement of Covid-19 curbs and avoid blanket lockdowns.
“This direction shows clearly that the [Central] Chinese government doesn’t want its Covid measures to disrupt so much people’s lives and the economy,” Mr Ma told GGRAsia.
The Ponte 16 boss added: “But when it gets to the provincial and local authorities, they don’t seem to have a clear benchmark on how to keep a uniform Covid-prevention principle….What we don’t want to see is the provincial authorities applying excessive restriction measures to contain Covid cases, because their actions represent the most immediate impact on the [potential return] of tourists.”
Wong Fai, president of the Macau Leisure Tourism Services Innovation Association, believed that the city could receive “more than 20,000” visitor arrivals a day in the coming month, should Guangdong province be able to stabilise the current Covid-19 outbreak by then.
“It is still very hard to predict what will likely be the tally of visitor volume for December, due to the current outbreak [in mainland China]. But it should not be a problem for Macau to be able to pull in more than 20,000 visitors a day, if Guangdong is able to overcome the current Covid-19 outbreak and stabilise it in a weeks’ time,” Mr Wong said in comments to GGRAsia.
“China’s e-visa scheme and several [tourism] events due to be hosted in the last month of this year should also be of some help to Macau in attracting visitors from other mainland provinces, outside of Guangdong,” Mr Wong added.
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