Early Macau Golden Week Visitor Arrivals Far Short of Government Expectations

Posted on: October 2, 2019, 11:22h. 

Last updated on: October 2, 2019, 11:46h.

Golden Week in Macau is off to a slow start in terms of visitor arrivals.

Macau Golden Week casino GGR
Macau Golden Week guests shouldn’t have any trouble finding a seat at their favorite table game. (Image: Reuters)

Data supplied from the Macau Government Tourism Office reveals that on the first day of the week-long holiday, the enclave welcomed 135,897 travelers – a 3.8 percent bump on the statistics from October 1, 2018. While it’s a positive number, it’s considerably short of the 15 percent year-over-year growth forecast for the October 1-7 celebration.

The People’s Republic of China debuted Golden Week in 1999. Most workers are given the week off in what’s a scheme to expand domestic tourism. Golden Week kicks off with National Day to celebrate the establishing of the People’s Republic on October 1, 1949.

Macau seemed poised to benefit from the social unrest in Hong Kong. But through the first day, it appears the weak Chinese economy is potentially keeping many mainland families at home for a staycation.

Macau was exceptionally hot on Tuesday, with temperatures hitting 93 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the warmest National Day in Macau since 1952.

Gaming Impact

Visitor arrivals and casino win has little correlation, and that’s especially true in Macau, the world’s richest gaming hub that was founded with the highest of rollers in mind. Fewer VIPs have traveled to the Special Administrative Region in recent years, forcing the multibillion-dollar resorts littered across the area to pivot to more of the mass market.

While tourism numbers remain robust, the quality of the guest has decreased. Sanford C. Bernstein analysts said room comps will be high to keep hotels occupied, but they’ll be afforded to “lower-spend” customers.

Macau welcomed 890,000 visitors during the 2018 Golden Week. At the 3.8 percent increase on day one, the enclave is on pace to accommodate 923,830 people this week.

The increase – analysts say – won’t be enough to offset the reduction in VIP customers.

The trend so far is not looking too optimistic,” JPMorgan said in a note. “While hotel bookings are solid, we expect the quality of the customers will be lower.”

Golden Week follows September, where Macau gross gaming revenue (GGR) was at its lowest in a year. Casino win totaled $2.7 billion, a marginal 0.6 percent year-over-year gain that came against an easy comparable due to Typhoon Mangkhut in September 2018.

Gaming industry analysts are forecasting a GGR decline in October, Bernstein opining as much as a six percent decline. October 2018 benefited from a strong Golden Week, casinos winning $3.39 billion.

Mode of Transportation

Macau is no longer an isolated enclave largely accessible by air or water ferry from Hong Kong. The December 2018 opening of the 34-mile Hong Kong to Macau bridge slashed automobile travel time between the two SARs from four hours to 35 minutes.

Government statistics show that more people traveled to Macau on October 1 by way of the bridge than they did the outer harbor, Taipa ferry terminal, and airport. A total of 9,923 people came by way of car across the Pearl River Delta bridge.

The vast majority of visitors still access Macau through the main border gate that separates the enclave from the mainland. More than 84,000 of the nearly 136,000 travelers ventured through the gate.