Bridging the connectivity gap

A new bridge connecting cities in the Pearl River Delta is giving Macau’s tourism sector greater hope for more FIT arrivals and longer-staying visitors.

The 42km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) is promising to open the floodgates to new source markets and travel segments when it kicks off later this year, linking three of the most prosperous centres in the South China region.

A Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) spokesman said: “The new competitive advantage (HZMB) provides lies in its ability to offer visitors a new option for travelling to Macau from neighbouring mainland cities and Hong Kong.

HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (Photo from Government Information Bureau of Macau)

“This will be strongly bolstered in terms of connectivity with many international flights operating from the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), where the constraint of having a single mode of transportation to HKIA by sea would soon become liberated.”
The new bridge will present an additional option linking Hong Kong and Macau. “Some visitors find the existing ferry connection complicated so we’re hoping the bridge will offer greater convenience,” said Manuel Wu, managing director of Macau Explorer Cultural Travel.

Besides further integrating the three regions physically, the bridge is also expected to change visitor profiles, travel patterns and average length of stay in Macau and Zhuhai.
The Macao Tourism Industry Development Master Plan projects that by the year 2025 the average stays of visitors will be 2.3 days, compared with only 1.2 days in 2017.

Wu said: “I am sure it will stir up demand for lengthier visits here.  The bridge may also help divert the traffic from China which currently jams up the existing cross-border gates.

“Also it may further intensify and promote the established multi-destination travel concept across the Pearl River Delta.”

He believes the bridge will also bring more FITs and day-tripper traffic, especially for longhaul travellers arriving at HKIA.

“In the past, they treated Hong Kong as the main destination while Macau was only a getaway escape. Hopefully, the fact that the Hong Kong side of the bridge is adjacent to HKIA will change this perception.”

Beyond improving access, the bridge will also be treated as an attraction in itself.
MGTO is looking into working with partner travel agencies and airlines to develop commemorative and themed tours incorporating the bridge as a novel component in their Macau and multi-destination tour packages.

In addition to repackaging the “Hong Kong and Macau twin cities” tour products, Wu has also observed more frequent requests to charter a boat and tour around the mega-project, which is deemed an engineering marvel.

The launch of the bridge is likely to enhance Macau as a business events destination as well.

Wu added: “While both (Hong Kong and Macau) prove capable of hosting mega groups, Macau’s transportation services remain a stumbling block owing to limited international air connections, as well as flight and ferry capacity. This makes it difficult to mobilise big groups and drives event planners to choose (Macau over) other destinations.”

However, Sands China, marketing and brand management, senior vice president, Ruth Boston believes it’s probably too early to tell the full scope of how the bridge will affect travel to Macau. Still, she acknowledged that convenience of travel is a primary motivating factor for people booking holidays, and the new bridge which links up several key Chinese cities in Guangdong will substantially reduce overall travel time.

Meanwhile, Macau’s air connections keep improving. In July 2017, Beijing Capital Airlines inaugurated flights between Lisbon in Portugal and Macau via Beijing. Last November, AirAsia commenced the first Malaysian connection to Macau from Johor Bahru, which was followed by Thai AirAsia’s Phuket-Macau service in January 2018.

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