Macau was hoping that the holiday period would help it pick up a little, but a last-minute flare-up of COVID-19 infection in neighboring China and Guangdong Province, in particular, has quickly dried up the flow of tourists across the border. Things are back to normal, but the damage has been done with China’s annual Labor Day holidays only seeing as few as 92,400 visitors make it into the special administrative region. The three-day holiday is associated with the opportunity to bunk off across the border and hit the casinos in Macau, which has not happened.
Casinos Short of Customers for May Holiday
The first day of the holidays saw only 40,000 pass border control, followed by 26,200 daily for May 2 and May 3. The traffic was more subdued when compared to the 2021 Labor Day festivities which saw 114,000 visitors, and when COVID-19 restrictions were much tougher to overcome for the sake of recreational travel.
The lack of foot traffic was immediately felt across casino concessionaires in the special administrative region with the present numbers being a far cry from the 531,000 visitors for the 2019 Labor Day holiday. Back then, the Cotai Strip’s casino resorts were booked and visitors were happy to come. Casinos in Macau have been feeling the pressure of the pandemic and lack of travel, with their results for Q1 2022 falling 80% to 2019 numbers.
Part of this is blamed on China’s zero-COVID policy which wants to shut down entire cities for days, and often weeks if breakouts are reported. While some metropolises such as Shanghai have seen brief protests against wide-imposed sanctions, most people have complied with authorities’ requests.
But zero-COVID means that travel is greatly impeded across the republic and people are hard-pressed to get to Macau, or anywhere else for this matter. Vitaly Umansky, a Sanford C. Bernstein analyst, noted that April results weren’t too bad given the pent-up demand for gambling and change in border controls, but still, results were subdued.
May Should Change Things
This should change soon enough with May expected to be a much better month for gaming in the enclave. More analysts have pitched in to argue that May’s results will in all likelihood be much better. JPMorgan analysts DS Kim, Livy Lyu, and Amanda Cheng even argued that the numbers during the Labor Day holiday weren’t so bad given how difficult traveling in the country still is.
Better times are coming for Macau, despite the ordeals the special administrative region and its casinos have faced.