Nomura’s Instinet LLC said on Friday there was a possibility the authorities in mainland China might by April or May “reopen” borders with Macau, thereby permitting some tourism traffic to the latter city.
While such crossing points are not officially closed, a number of restrictions have been put in place – including the temporary suspension, reportedly since late January, of new exit visas under China’s individual visit scheme (IVS), amid the country’s and now the world’s coronavirus alert. Tour groups from the mainland to Macau are also suspended. Such restrictions had resulted in a dramatic reduction in the normal levels of cross-border traffic between Macau and the mainland.
The Nomura memo was issued prior to news emerging on Sunday of a new imported case of Covid-19 in Macau, involving the infection of a South Korean woman that works in the city and had just returned from a trip to Portugal.
In the Friday note, Nomura analysts Harry Curtis, Daniel Adam and Brian Dobson had acknowledged that there were “rapid changes” occurring in terms of investor sentiment and news flow regarding Covid-19′s impact on Macau gaming and the wider industry.
But they noted the possibility of a return of somewhat normal levels of cross-border traffic with the mainland “within two months” was based on conversations the institution had with several gaming property managers in Macau.
“While the [Chinese] government is still shutting access from stricken countries in Europe and Asia,” the outlook in Macau and the neighbouring mainland province of Guangdong “could encourage gradual resumption of IVS issuance,” Nomura stated.
Those mainland residents still able to get an exit visa to Macau – business visas, transit visas and family reunion visas have reportedly been available according to some commentators – could currently still face an up to eight-hour check at the border for screening regarding coronavirus, and if found positive would need to pay for treatment in Macau.
On March 11 a Macau government spokesperson mentioned the city was considering making “adjustments” - of an unspecified nature - in entry restrictions for people seeking to travel to Macau from mainland China, as the impact of novel coronavirus appeared to be lessening within China.
“More than any other market and sector in the near term, we believe that the demand recovery in Macau, depending on the pace and breadth of border reopenings, has the potential to be steeper than a recovery in global corporate travel,” the Nomura analysts remarked in the Friday note.
Wong Fai, vice president of the Macau Travel Industry Council, told GGRAsia that he had currently no news regarding when either IVS visa issuance or outbound package tours for mainlanders would resume.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés