Macau and Hong Kong Quarantine-Free Travel Approaching, as Beijing Signals Approval

Posted on: December 10, 2021, 10:57h. 

Last updated on: December 10, 2021, 11:48h.

Macau is in desperate need of some good news, and the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) received a bit this week by way of pending border openings in nearby Hong Kong.

Macau Hong Kong border China COVID-19
A man is seen jogging in “Canal dos Patos,” which separates Macau from neighboring Zhuhai and mainland China. Easier border crossings from Macau to Hong Kong and vice-versa are expected next month. (Image: AFP)

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that People’s Republic officials in Beijing have granted Hong Kong approval to soon begin reopening its borders without quarantines to mainlanders and Macau residents. Hong Kongers wishing to travel to the mainland and/or Macau have been instructed to immediately download and begin using the Hong Kong Health Code’s “Leave Home Safe” app.

[Using the app now will] allow members of the public to familiarize themselves with its functions earlier,” a Hong Kong government statement explained.

Users who allow the app to track their movements for at least three weeks will qualify to travel to China and Macau without needing to quarantine in early 2022.

The news is a major development for Macau’s casinos. Prior to the pandemic, Hong Kong accounted for almost 19 percent of the total number of visitor arrivals into the gaming hub. More than 7.3 million Hong Kong residents visited Macau that year.

Macau Madness

The world’s richest casino market remains greatly unsettled, as grave regulatory adjustments are being mulled. And it appears that VIP junket groups will soon become a thing of the past in Macau.

Junkets have for years been responsible for bringing mainland and Hong Kong high rollers to Macau to gamble. But the operations of the controversial gaming promoters have faced much scrutiny from Beijing.

Suncity Group founder Alvin Chau’s arrest in late November signaled the beginning of the end for VIP operators. That will likely lead to reduced gross gaming revenue (GGR), as whales accounted for 46 percent of Macau’s $36.4 billion gaming haul in 2019.

However, allowing people from Hong Kong to come and go freely — assuming no new COVID-19 outbreaks occur — will allow Macau to begin the new year with more customers.

The SCMP adds that Hong Kong will formally announce the elimination of quarantines for its residents who cross borders to the mainland and Macau following its Dec. 19 legislative session.

Visa Triage

Macau government authorities warned the public that once quarantine-free travel resumes with Hong Kong, priority entries will be made for those with urgent needs. Officials said Hong Kongers who are seeking to visit older relatives or those sick in Macau will be given visa priority.

The vast majority of visitors into Macau pre-pandemic came from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Of the 39.4 million people who visited Macau in 2019, the mainland accounted for 70.9 percent of the traffic. Hong Kong represented 18.7 percent, and Taiwan 2.7 percent.

South Korea was next at 1.9 percent, the Philippines fourth at 1.1 percent, and Japan rounded out the top five at 0.8 percent.

Though three of Macau’s six licensed casino operators are US-based companies, the United States accounted for only 0.5 percent of the visitor traffic in 2019. Less than 200,000 US residents ventured to the Chinese casino region that year.