When 2021 began, it looked like Macau might be ready to make a significant rebound from the devastation caused by COVID-19 last year. While there weren’t any major upswings in casino revenue, there were steady increases in tourism and activity that painted a brighter picture for the rest of the year. That led the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) to optimistically predict as many as ten million tourist arrivals coming to the city before 2021 ended. However, new COVID-19 problems that have arisen in certain parts of Asia are now forcing that prediction to be revised. As of yesterday, the MGTO believes the number of tourists coming to Macau will only be between 7-8 million this year.
Macau Still Struggles to Get On Its Feet
This past April saw Macau’s casinos receive more action than they had received in a year, a positive sign that better days were coming. It wasn’t long, though, before new COVID-19 issues in China and Hong Kong slowed the progress and analysts began backing down from the idea of a strong recovery this month. Yesterday, MGTO boss Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes was present for a local conference in Macau when she gave the new, less optimistic prediction.
In speaking to local media during the event, Senna Fernandes explained what is happening with visitation and where the city is headed. Across the first five months of the year, the number of arrivals has increased by 4.7% year-on-year to 3.4 million; however, as new problems surface in major feeders such as Hong Kong and China, travel quarantines and limitations are being extended. This is going to keep a lot of travelers away and make it more difficult for Macau to rebound. Still, the MGTO boss expects the summer months to give the city a considerable boost, despite the issues.
Macau Needs Its Foreign Traffic
Macau relies heavily on tourism for its survival. Primarily, it needs its foreign gamblers to visit in order to support the economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the city that relying too much on one tourism market segment can be counterproductive to growth. Macau had already begun to launch initiatives to cater to a broader range of tourism markets, and those efforts are going to be enhanced more in light of the continuing problems.
It’s very likely that the city’s casino industry will be forced to play a larger role in fulfilling those initiatives if they expect to retain their licenses. Macau is supposed to issue new concessions sometime next year, although the process could be delayed for several reasons. When the new license agreements are finally established, though, casino operators should be prepared to provide more support to the city.
That support will be needed even more if Macau continues to see its tourism numbers remain flatlined. While the average daily visitor arrival number for May was 27,938, June is looking much worse. According to Senna Fernandes, through the first 26 days of the month, the daily average was only around 15,000 to 16,000.