Macau February Tourism Numbers Dismal, Enclave Still Essentially on Lockdown

Posted on: March 8, 2020, 12:04h. 

Last updated on: March 6, 2020, 12:14h.

Macau remains nearly on lockdown because of the ongoing novel COVID-19 coronavirus, and that’s drastically cut visitor arrivals into the enclave.

Macau gaming revenue coronavirus
The Cotai Strip and much of Macau remains largely a ghost town. (Image: EPA)

In response to an inquiry from GGRAsia, the online media outlet focused on the Asian gaming industry, the Macau Public Security Police force said the nine days between February 20-29 counted just 50,000 visitors into the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

By comparison, Macau’s Statistics and Census Service reported 2019 total visitation was 39.4 million people – an average of 108,000 visitors per day. That means after the reopening of the casinos on February 20 following a 15-day mandatory shutdown, Macau welcomed less than half of the number of travelers in the nine days than it typically does in one 24-hour period.

Though the deadly disease continues to spread around the world, Macau has successfully blocked its transmission. The enclave has reported 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but no new cases in more than two weeks.

Only one patient remains in a Macau hospital. The rest have been cleared and released.

Economy Shattered

The more than two-week closure was critical to curbing the virus in the region, but devastating to Macau’s gaming industry. Casino win totaled just $387 million last month, an 88 percent loss compared with February 2019. The difference is roughly $2.75 billion.

Macau maintains a stringent screening process for those wishing to enter the enclave. The process can take as long as eight hours, prompting some to turn away.

But it’s not only the SAR government that is reason for the large reduction in visitor arrivals. The People’s Republic has greatly reduced, or completely stopped, issuing exit visas for mainland citizens. China is where the coronavirus originated, and the overwhelming majority of confirmed cases are located there.

The US State Department currently has a China “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory on American citizens.

In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air, road, and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and placed restrictions on travel and other activities throughout the country,” the advisory explains. “Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.”

COVID-19 has brought more financial damage to world economies than SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) did back in 2002 and 2003. The 2019 coronavirus is much deadlier (3,105 deaths to date) than SARS was (774 deaths).

Casino Dead Zone

Less visitors means fewer hotel stays, but Macau is reporting figures even worse than might be expected.

The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) says hotel occupancy was just 11.6 percent during the week of February 15-21.

“The current occupancy rate is worse than the SARS period. It is the worst time I have seen since I’ve entered the tourism industry,” said MGTO Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes.

Rates remain cheap. A two-night stay next Tuesday to Thursday at the five-star MGM Cotai will cost a total of $324.71 (including taxes and fees).