The number of mainland China tourists coming to Macau under China’s Individual Visa Scheme (IVS) increased 2.6 percent year-on-year in January, show data disclosed on Thursday by the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
Macau welcomed a total of 785,000 IVS visitors last month.
January marked the first month of growth in year-on-year terms of IVS tourist numbers since September 2015, when Macau recorded a slight increase of 0.6 percent in such type of visitors.
The city received a total of 2.45 million visitors in January, down 0.8 percent year-on-year. Of those, 1.66 million came from mainland China, a decline of 0.7 percent from the prior-year period.
Casino gross gaming revenue in Macau fell by 21.4 percent year-on-year in January to MOP18.67 billion (US$2.33 billion), extending to 20 months the local industry’s revenue decline, show data from the city’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
Investors pay attention to IVS trends because the spending power of these visitors is thought generally to be higher than that of mainland Chinese visitors arriving on package tours. They are thought to spend more at casino tables and slots in Macau.
In January, Guangdong IVS permit holders contributed 578,000 visits – or approximately 74 percent – of all visits to Macau by mainlanders under the IVS system.
Shanghai, Beijing and Fujian together contributed 85,400 visits under the IVS to Macau, or 11 percent of all such visits in the period.
The IVS was first implemented in four Guangdong cities and expanded several times between July 2003 and January 2007. The number of cities under the IVS currently stands at 49. The system allows mainland passport holders to visit Macau as independent travellers rather than as part of a tour group.
About a fifth of mainland China’s population are currently eligible to apply to visit Macau under the IVS.
In January, the number of total overnight visitors to Macau rose by 5.3 percent year-on-year to 1.15 million; same-day visitors dropped by 5.6 percent to 1.3 million.
The average length of stay of visitors increased by 0.3 of a day year-on-year to 1.2 days, said the statistics bureau.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings