The reinstatement of some forms of China exit visa for travel to Macau can help the city’s tourism industry in the upcoming October “Golden Week” holiday period, but demand for escorted package tours involving travellers from the mainland is likely to remain low, amid the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, says Andy Wu Keng Kuong, president of the Macau Travel Industry Council.
Mr Wu said the outlook was clouded by the likely lack of availability of two-city tours – featuring Macau and Hong Kong – favoured pre-crisis, by travellers from the mainland.
The mainland authorities have recently moved to ease travel movement to Macau, which has not reported a new case of Covid-19 for several months. But in Hong Kong there has been an uptick in Covid-19 infections, with reports of a “third wave” of disease, although as of Sunday the daily total of new infections had remained below 100, for 14 consecutive days.
Visitor numbers to Macau via package tours were “definitely going to be much smaller” and the comeback “weaker” than before the pandemic, with demand rising more slowly than the market for independent travel via means such as China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) or business visas, said the Macau travel council’s Mr Wu in comments to GGRAsia.
“For [mainland Chinese] package tours, the number of travellers per group is definitely going to be much smaller because of virus prevention needs,” the industry representative said.
In addition, Chinese package tour clients “tend to prefer the traditional format of joint tours to Hong Kong and Macau,” Mr Wu stated.
But the Covid-19 infection rate in Hong Kong “now does look serious,” the industry spokesman added. There was still “uncertainty” on when Macau could resume travel ties with that neighbouring Special Administrative Region of China.
Currently, all people arriving in Macau that have been in Hong Kong in the preceding 14 days are required to present a nucleic acid test certificate – issued within 24 hours of arrival – proving they are free from Covid-19 infection. Such travellers would nonetheless also be required on arrival to undergo a 14-day quarantine programme in a Macau-government designated location under the terms of the city’s virus-prevention policy, making it hard for holidaymakers to use Hong Kong as a first stop on the way to Macau.
Package numbers in 2019
During 2019, Macau recorded a total of 8.33 million package tour arrivals, of which 6.44 million were from mainland China, according to Macau’s Statistics and Census Service. For that year, the city recorded in total, 27.9 million arrivals from mainland China, of which about 47 percent – or 13.07 million – came to the city using IVS visas.
The first week of October marks autumn Golden Week, a seasonal holiday encompassing China’s National Day, and usually a period of peak demand for Macau’s tourism and casino businesses. China’s State Council declared the 2020 holiday period as running for eight days, i.e., October 1 to 8. This year, the period also includes the lunar calendar-based Mid-Autumn Festival.
Macau travel agencies are currently preparing various travel packages – some in collaboration with the city’s casino resorts – to attract mainland Chinese travellers during that festive period, Mr Wu told GGRAsia.
“The design of these offerings will have a focus on giving consumers value-for-money deals, and encouraging them to have an extended stay in Macau,” he noted.
The Macao Government Tourism Office, a body also known as MGTO, said in a Thursday statement that the local government was launching - with Chinese electronic payment service Alipay – a promotion campaign running from this month and into October, to attract tourists from the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong to go shopping in Macau.
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, the tourism bureau’s director, added the city was “ready and prepared” to welcome mainland Chinese visitors.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance