Macau could see a shift in travel patterns in the coming months when the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, as the government banks on short-haul travellers with preference of shorter stay in the world’s largest gambling hub, an official said.
The changes may be inevitable as the government takes steps to reopen its border to more visitors to its casinos and other cultural attractions. The viral outbreak since January has left the local economy in tatters, with tourist arrivals in free fall.
“The time one invests on trip planning and pertinent reservations before holiday may be shortened, while many may opt for short-haul travel,” Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), said in an email interview with the Post.
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“The condition of public health and safety in travel facilities will become travellers’ foremost consideration when they make their choices of travel destination, transport mode and hotel,” she said.
The city received 3.57 million tourists from January to August this year, representing an 87 per cent slide from a year earlier, government statistics show, following the enforced border closure and temporary casino shutdown.
The ‘golden week’ holiday did not bring much relief either with arrivals, mostly from mainland China, crashing by almost 90 per cent on average to 19,538 per day, compared with the same peak festive break in 2019, the MGTO said.
Macau’s economy is still highly dependent on casino receipts for now, with ongoing efforts being formulated to diversify its source of income. The government plans to spend more than 50 billion patacas (US$6.3 billion) or about 12 per cent of its GDP in relief measures to shore up the economy.
All six casino licence holders – Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts from the US, Melco International Development and Galaxy Entertainment from Hong Kong, and Macau-based SJM Holdings, the gaming business of the late “King of Gambling” Stanley Ho – will see their concessions expire in June 2022.
Macau has recorded 46 Covid-19 cases since the outbreak, all of whom have recovered, according to official tally. The city has not had any new local cases since for 169 consecutive days through September 14, and many local businesses have reopened for business.
Since September 23, the Macau government has started accepting applications from mainland China for tourism permits.
Fernandes is confident that “multi-destination tourism” will get a renewed push from the growing role of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge entry point. The super structure has become a major attraction in itself, she added.
More than 6.43 million people have entered Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge since it opened to traffic in October 2018 until the end of 2019, making it the second most.
About 13.7 per cent of tourists arrived in Macau via the bridge in 2019. The pandemic has brought those flows to a trickle, arrivals sliding 88 per cent to 440,000 from January to July.
Notwithstanding that, Macau is leveraging on the characteristic advantages of the different member cities in the Greater Bay Area “to foster the creation of diverse tourism multi-destination itineraries.”
“This means ease of travel brought by major regional infrastructures like the mega bridge, as well as visa policy optimisation,” she said. Such increased mobility and share of resources within the region is expected to speed up multi-city travelling when the pandemic is brought under control, she added.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Macau hotels and casinos look forward to upcoming golden week holiday as travel restrictions with China are eased
- Macau’s ambitious plan to turn itself into a Greater Bay Area entertainment, finance hub runs into Covid-19 difficulties
- Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment posts US$361 million loss for first half of 2020, blames coronavirus restrictions
- Wynn Macau posts worst quarter on record, choked by coronavirus pandemic and rotten luck at VIP tables
- Macau’s July gambling revenue falls by 94.5 per cent as visa ban amid Covid-19 pandemic thwarts growth in world’s ‘sin capital’
This article Macau predicts shift in travel patterns as Covid-19 limits tourism to short-haul, short stay visitors first appeared on South China Morning Post