Macau Government Says 35 Million People Will Visit Enclave in 2018, 70 Percent From Mainland China

Posted on: November 7, 2018, 10:21h. 

Last updated on: November 7, 2018, 10:21h.

The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) says visitation is up in 2018 through the first nine months, and expects around 35 million people to travel to the enclave this year.

Macau visitation Hong Kong bridge
China President Xi Jinping opened the Hong Kong to Macau bridge last month. (Image: Aly Song/Reuters)

If that total is realized, tourism would post an eight percent increase on 2017 when 32.6 million people visited the gaming hub. Mainland China accounts for the major chunk of visitors, with about 70 percent of Macau guests coming from the People’s Republic.

Macau casino operators continue to pivot to more of the mass market following China President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign that targeted VIP junket groups catering to the mainland’s wealthiest residents. With fewer high rollers being ushered in, the multibillion-dollar resorts honed in on the general public and began offering more diverse attractions.

Gaming Win Up

Investment analysts caution that tourism numbers often don’t directly correlate with gross gambling revenue (GGR). They point to the fact that VIPs still account for a considerable amount of casino win, and that seems to be true in 2018.

While tourism is up 8.3 percent through September, Macau casinos have posted 14.3 percent higher GGR through October. Last month was especially profitable, as the gaming industry reported a $3.38 billion haul, the highest win in four years.

However, there are ongoing concerns that the US-China trade war, as well as a slowing economy in the People’s Republic, could lead to a slight pullback for Macau’s gaming industry in the months ahead.

Bridge to Everywhere

Macau is no long an isolated enclave where visitors predominantly arrive via air or ferry. The recent opening of the 34-mile, $20 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau (HKZM) bridge cuts driving time for Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people from about three hours to 30 minutes to the world’s richest gaming town.

Hong Kong International serves around 70 million people each year. Macau’s terminal serves less than seven million.

Analysts weren’t initially convinced the bridge would have much impact on Macau’s gaming industry, as the casino resort shuttle busses that already clog enclave streets are barred from traveling across the HKZM. However, 34 bus permits were issued to charter companies, with each allowed to traverse the Pearl River Delta expanse one round-trip time per day.

The six licensed casino operators have partnered with the permit holders to transport guests to and from Hong Kong.

The main benefit is that Macau now becomes a more appealing destination for meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE). Macau officials believe the bridge can also help their mission of making the enclave not only a leisure and tourism destination, but also a shopping hub that appeals to people of all income levels.

Much of the retail space in the casinos is occupied by high-end brands,” JLL Managing Director Gregory Ku told the World Property Journal recently. “The retail offering in Macau is likely to transition more towards mass market retail … as the city tries to attract a broader range of tourists.”