Still reeling from the flight of Chinese visitors, Macau’s tourism sector is finding hope in new air links and infrastructural development.
New air links into Macau and the construction of mega-infrastructures like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge are promising to boost Macau’s accessibility and brighten its tourism prospects, alongside a flurry of new integrated resorts opening in the destination.
Launched in March 2016, Air Macau’s Macau-Fukuoka service became the third air link between Macau and Japan, in addition to the Tokyo and Osaka routes. The national carrier will increase its flight frequency from four to five times weekly from October 30 onwards.
A Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) spokesman commented: “The regular air service will help (us) further tap the Japanese market, one of Macau’s top international visitor source markets.”
In May, Royal Flight airline also commenced a twice-weekly charter service between Macau and Moscow. According to Macau International Airport’s (MIA) website, the Russian charter airline stepped up frequency for this service to thrice-weekly in July 2016.
“The new connection with Russia will definitely help open up a new market. Russians love travelling to Hong Kong and Macau in winter. Therefore, we’d start preparing for this market and (target) the mid-tier group tour and upscale FIT markets,” China International Travel Services, manager, Cooper Zhang said.
“Given there’s only a handful of Russian-speaking tour guides in town, we have managed to track down some and booked them in advance.”
Also interested to capitalise on the new route is Hong Kong-based HS Travel, which operates a branch office in Macau.
Said executive director, Hazen Tang: “We may ride on this new connection to push more high-end Russian incentives, but there isn’t any enquiry from Russia yet and I reckon it’s owing to the depreciation of the ruble.”
Despite the suspension of services from both Thai Smile Airways (since August 30) and TransAsia Airways (October 30), MIA has attracted four new carriers in 1H2016, namely VietJet, Lion Air, Royal Flight and Nok Air. Lion Air also launched Macau-Manado (Indonesia) charter services on July 4, 2016, providing three flights every two weeks.
“The cessation of routes may result in inconvenience and change of airfares due to lower seat supply and time slots, but I’m sure other carriers would take up the time slots. In fact, traffic from Thailand remains stable and I heard that Air Macau has just opened an office in Bangkok so we expect more happenings,” Zhang shared.
Tang also downplayed the effect of the suspended services: “The suspension affects us but visitors can easily (connect to Macau via) Hong Kong.”
Infrastructure wise, MIA’s new four-storey north extension will cover approximately 14,000m2 in total floor space and house facilities like an arrival hall, a departure lounge, commercial area, offices, a nursery, conference rooms and an emergency operations centre. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2Q2017.
Daniella Tonetto, general manager, sales & marketing for Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central and The St Regis Macao, Cotai Central, added: “We look forward to the new Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge and the opening of the Taipa Ferry Terminal. Both will rapidly accelerate the flow of travel into Macau and make travel more seamless and efficient, which is paramount for meeting and convention visitors.”
She continued: “Macau has always been fortunate to be within just a five-hour flight radius of many major cities. For those who choose to fly into neighbouring Hong Kong, which offers more connections, the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) provides ferry services directly to Macau. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, travellers (can bypass) immigration, go straight to the Sky Pier and take the one-hour ferry into Macau.”
Tonetto also favoured an increase in ferry frequencies between Macau and HKIA, as these would be beneficial for MICE travellers by reducing waiting time at the airport.