The head of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes (pictured in a file photo), told local media on Thursday the city might see arrivals data for November and December record a year-on-year contraction of inbound tourism.
Ms Senna Fernandes said months of protests in the neighbouring Special Administrative Region (SAR) Hong Kong were likely to prove a factor, especially in terms of people travelling to Macau as part of tour groups.
“Basically we saw quite a big decrease in the [number of visitors that joined] Hong Kong-Macau joint tour groups,” she stated.
“During the past couple of months everyone can see that the volume of tour group visitors has declined a lot,” Ms Senna Fernandes told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Macau.
In October, the city saw a total of 508,700 visitors via tour groups; a 35.3 percent year-on-year decline, according to Statistics and Census Service. During that month, there were 379,900 tour visitors from mainland China – the largest source market for package tourists – a nearly 39-percent year-on-year decline.
During the first ten months of this year, Macau had 7.29 million visits involving people in tour groups – roughly even with the year-before period – according to the statistics bureau. Nonetheless Macau’s overall visitor arrivals in the ten months to October 31 rose by 15.3 percent from the prior-year period, to over 33.4 million.
Ms Senna Fernandes noted on Thursday: “Even though the November [visitor] figures are yet to be released, we expect that this could be the first month that we would see a decline” year-on-year in overall monthly visitor tally during 2019.
She added: “Although there are a lot of events taking place in December, we are conservative [on visitor tally]… I do expect that there was a downward pressure [on visitor arrivals].”
In a note for casino-sector investors issued last week, Credit Suisse (Hong Kong) Ltd cited industry sources saying mainland authorities were applying “temporary” administrative controls in the period from “November 22 to December 20”, in order to “limit the traffic” to Macau “ahead of the China government officials’ visit to Macau for the 20th anniversary”.
Such visa controls could potentially dampen demand for Macau’s premium mass and VIP play during the last two months of this year, Credit Suisse noted in the report.
It has been widely speculated that President Xi Jinping will visit Macau later this month when the city marks the 20th anniversary of its handover from Portuguese administration to that of China.
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”There are likely to be cancellations of some Chinese New Year casino and junket parties and events [in Macau]”
Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts