The Macau casino industry has largely depended on the citizens of China for its main revenue stream. But most of those visitors have also come from a select few parts of the country, or what are termed the “tier-one” cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

China Macau visitors

Continued growth and development in lower-tier Chinese cities like Chongqing could fuel continued growth for Macau’s casinos. (Image: Ming Chen)

Now, as reported in GGRAsia, analysts are saying that could all change in the next few years, as more of the Asian country’s citizens outside of the largest and wealthiest cities find their way to the gambling hub for fun and entertainment.

According to a research report released by Morgan Stanley, Macau’s casinos are likely to benefit from a growing number of Chinese visitors from “lower-tier” cities. Essentially, that means all cities outside of Beijing and Shanghai.

Already Inbound Players

The evaluation of these smaller cities is based on a number of different factors, including infrastructure, transportation systems, and economic development, as well as their cultural and historical significance within China. According to the information compiled by Morgan Stanley, lower-tier cities already send a fair number of customers to Macau, but they could make up a bigger slice of the pie going forward.

“We estimate more than half of the 20 million Chinese visitor arrivals in Macau in 2016 came from lower-tier cities,” the report read. “This will be further supported by improving transportation infrastructure, increasing hotel room supply, and growing outbound tourism from China.”

The nearby Guangdong province is a major supplier of visitors to Macau, with Morgan Stanley saying the market penetration there for the casino industry stands at 11.9 percent. Throw in the travel directly from Shanghai and Beijing, and that accounts for about half of Chinese visitation to the territory alone.

Narrowing the Gap 

Tier-two cities like Chongqing do produce some gamblers for Macau, but not at the rate of Shanghai and Beijing. But as these locations continue to develop in the years to come, analysts believe they will start becoming nearly as important to the gaming industry as the traditional sources of Chinese tourism.

“We see wealthier lower-tier cities narrowing the gap of per capita disposable income for urban households with tier-one cities by almost 9 percent by 2030 due to infrastructure development, improved transport networks, favorable government policy and technology spillover,” the report said.

A broader base for Chinese tourism would be more than welcome to casino operators in Macau. While all signs point to continued growth for the enclave in the years to come, some analysts have predicted that VIP gaming growth will slow down significantly in 2018, meaning mass market players are more likely to contribute to soaring revenues.

Based on current trends, it seems that Chinese visitors will need a bit more disposable income if they want to keep enjoying their stays at Macau’s increasingly ritzy resorts.

According to information from the Statistics and Census Service, hotel prices in the territory rose nearly five percent year-over-year in 2017, with other sectors, such as restaurants, transportations, and other accommodations also seeing sharp pricing increases last year.