Factors including a slowing in the mainland China economy and protests in neighbouring Hong Kong might have constrained the tally of visitors to Macau in November and December and as a consequence, the city might not exceed the 40-million arrivals mark for 2019 that officials forecast in October.
So said on Thursday, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, head of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), in comments to local media on the sidelines of an event.
Investment analysts have mentioned other factors – including what have been termed “temporary” administrative controls from “November 22 to December 20” on exit visas for mainlanders wishing to visit Macau; and the possible visit to the city this month of China’s President Xi Jinping – as potential constraints to Macau inbound tourism in the fourth quarter.
MGTO had told GGRAsia that it was not “aware” of any such visa control measures as suggested by the investment community.
An annual tally of 40 million inbound visitors – the majority of them from mainland China – would nonetheless still mean 5 percent year-on-year growth.
Such a tally would also be greater than the volume achieved for inbound foreign tourism by some major countries in the region. In 2018, the whole of Japan managed to attract 31.2 million inbound tourists according to data from the Japan National Tourism Organization. Macau has a land area of only 32.9 square kilometres (12.7 sq miles) according to the city’s Statistics and Census Bureau.
In any case, Ms Senna Fernandes indicated in her Thursday comments that Macau’s inbound tourism growth for the first half next year, might moderate from first-half growth seen in some previous years.
The tourism official attributed the months of protests in the neighbouring city of Hong Kong and “downward pressure” on mainland China’s economy, as factors “pressurising” Macau’s visitor-market performance. She also did not see currently any “stimulant” that could bring about a strong growth in the visitor tally for the first half of 2020.
Ms Senna Fernandes noted: “…as we are not that optimistic in the figures for November and December, I think it [the 2019 visitor tally] could be eventually be close to 40 million but probably not exceeding it.”
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters