Macau Airport Sets Passenger Traffic Record, Mass Market Focus Grows Enclave Visitation

Posted on: August 5, 2018, 08:00h. 

Last updated on: August 4, 2018, 08:41h.

Macau casinos are committed to becoming less reliant on the VIP, and their recent mass market focus is driving tourism to the enclave.

Macau airport mass market casino
More people went through Macau International security in July than at any other time in the airport’s 23-year history. (Image: Flight Report)

The proof is in the data. This week, Macau International Airport reported record passenger traffic, with more than 740,000 people arriving and departing through its terminals in July.

Average daily traffic was over 23,000 passengers, an 11 percent premium on July 2017. Twelve percent more aircraft used Macau International, with more than 5,700 jets utilizing its runways.

July was the first time the airport eclipsed the 700,000-passenger mark in a month. Its previous all-time high was 683,630 passengers, which was set in December 2017.

Macau gross gambling revenue was up 10 percent in July.

Welcoming the Masses

Airport data for cities that rely heavily on tourism represent critical indicators of their overall economic health. In Macau, airport travelers are much likelier to stay overnight in the gambling hub than those who arrive via ferry or automobile.

Macau’s Statistics and Census Service hasn’t yet released its visitor arrivals numbers for July, but through June, year-to-date visitation to the enclave is up eight percent. More than 16.8 million people traveled to the Chinese Special Administrative Region in the first half of the year.

Better yet is the fact that overnight visitors climbed 8.3 percent. Those who stayed overnight spent an average of 2.2 days in Macau. Mainland China represents the major chunk of visitors (11.7 million), an increase of more than 13 percent.

The HKZM bridge, a 34-mile traverse covering the Pearl River Delta that will cut down driving time from Hong Kong to Macau to just 40 minutes, isn’t expected to benefit enclave casinos in the near future. Scheduled to open later this year, the bridge will initially ban casino buses.

However, some economic observers believe the bridge’s ability to connect the Hong Kong Airport to Macau could benefit the region in the years ahead. “The bridge opening is a game-changer in that respect,” Union Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen opined recently.

Good for Business

Following China President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on junket groups that transport high rollers from the mainland to the enclave and lend them money to gamble with, casinos began rethinking their marketing.

As gambling revenues plummeted, resorts turned to the general public to keep their five-star rooms filled. Melco Resorts billionaire Lawrence Ho says gaming margins on the mass market are four times better than the razor-thin profits made on the high rolling VIPs.

New integrated resorts are focusing less on gaming, and more on attractions that cater to a wider demographic. Today, the multi-Billion dollar resorts on the Cotai Strip nearly all have lures that have nothing to do with table games or slot machines.

SJM Holdings, late to the action in Cotai, is in the home stretch of completing its $4.6 billion Grand Lisboa Palace. The company said this week in its quarterly financial report that when the resort opens, “more than 90 percent of the total area will be devoted to a full range of non-gaming facilities.”