With a mix of negative external factors weakening inbound tourism to Macau, such as the ongoing US-China trade war and the prolonged Hong Kong protests, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has projected negative growth of three per cent for 2020 despite recording a 10.1 per cent growth in visitor arrivals in 2019.
Speaking at MGTO’s Annual Press Conference on Wednesday (January 16), its director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes said that the negative projection was unprecedented.
She noted that Macau registered a double-digit decrease in visitor arrivals for November and December 2019. This marks a drastic reversal from when robust growth in inbound numbers was recorded for the period of January to July 2019, in part due to inbound traffic generated via the newly-opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, said Fernandes.
She added that following a six per cent drop in visitor arrivals during the Macau Grand Prix in November 2019, MGTO did not foresee any positive rebound in the short term, hence, its projection for the Lunar New Year period would be a six per cent drop in visitor arrivals to 1.1 million, as compared to 1.2 million over the same period in 2019.
“Many business travellers and MICE groups usually make their way to Macau after their conferences (in Hong Kong) while leisure travellers also take short trips here. With numerous countries having issued travel alerts on Hong Kong since August, visitor arrivals have dropped. Therefore, MGTO will strengthen promotion with overseas markets, especially those with direct air connections to Macau.
“Meanwhile, we’ll work with cities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) to craft new tour products to attract international visitors. With more new hotels scheduled to complete this year and over the next few years, we will (work to) attract more overseas travellers and visitors from GBA to stay overnight here. Our focus also includes cities outside the Guangdong Province of China which are connected (to Macau) by high-speed rail.”
China Travel Service (Macao), travel department sales and marketing manager, Pun Cheng Man, said MGTO’s projection is not an accurate reflection of the overall situation, as travel agents in Macau grapple with the fallout from the Hong Kong riots.
“Many mainland Chinese pick Hong Kong-Macau as a travel destination. Macau is too small to be mono destination. Unlike Hong Kong, we don’t have many tourism offerings and resources to keep them here for longer stays,” she said.
A silver lining in the cloud of uncertainty is the upcoming pre-summer opening of the newly-revamped Macao Grand Prix Museum, which will now host multimedia and interactive facilities.
Elsewhere, the city is also pushing the development of maritime tourism products. Discussions with industry partners on the feasibility of developing island tourism products in the GBA are also ongoing. MGTO will also organise a variety of mega tourism events and invite GBA cities to participate in them.
Macau welcomed more than 39.4 million visitors last year, with a surge in both the figures of same-day visitors (up 20 per cent to exceed 20.7 million) and overnight-stay visitors (up 0.8 per cent to surpass 18.6 million), according to preliminary figures.
International visitor arrivals dropped by 2.8 per cent to three million while mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan remained Macau’s top three visitor source markets, all of which registered an increase in visitor volume.
The city welcomed over 27 million mainland Chinese visitors last year, up 10.5 per cent from 2018, with 45 per cent of visitors coming from Guangdong Province.
Meanwhile, visitor arrivals from Hong Kong surged 16.2 per cent to 7.3 million, while visitor arrivals from Taiwan rose 0.2 per cent to over 1 million.