Macau Lures More Than 1.35M Tourists During Chinese New Year

Posted on: February 19, 2024, 08:41h. 

Last updated on: February 19, 2024, 11:56h.

Macau attracted over 1.35 million visitors during China’s more than weeklong New Year holiday.

Macau China New Year gaming revenue
Chinese travelers in Macau ring in the New Year on Feb. 10, 2024, with the Ruins of Saint Paul’s in the distance. Macau casinos benefited from the return of the holiday traffic. (Image: Xinhua)

The Chinese New Year in 2024 fell on Feb. 10. Most workers across the country were given paid time off from Feb. 10 through Feb. 17.

According to statistical data released by Macau’s Public Security Police Force, the eight-day holiday celebration brought 1,357,803 visitors — most of whom originated from the mainland — to the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR). The casino hub saw tourism traffic skyrocket 164% from the prior year, when President Xi Jinping’s “zero-COVID” restrictions had only recently been lifted.

Also known as Golden Week, 2024 is the “Year of the Dragon.” The tourism count greatly exceeded government expectations, which forecast a little less than a million arrivals.

Casinos Bustle

The 2024 Chinese New Year brought an average of nearly 170,000 daily visitors into the casino enclave. The average was just shy of the 173,355 daily visitors who ventured to Macau during the pre-pandemic 2019 holiday.

Most of the traffic, a little more than one million travelers, the police force revealed, came from the mainland. Hong Kong was responsible for about 253,000 visitors.

Macau’s approximately 46,000 hotel rooms were occupied more than 95% of the available room nights during the eight days, with occupancy peaking at 98% midweek. Casinos managed to charge higher nightly rates for their guest rooms — up 23% to MOP1,922 (US$238.75).

The increased visitation naturally led to better performances on the gaming floors. In an advisory note issued today, analysts at JP Morgan Securities Asia said the six casino operators topped MOP1 billion (US$124 million) a day in gross gaming revenue (GGR) during the peak period of the holiday. The JP Morgan analysts believe it’s the first time that the casinos eclipsed MOP1 billion in daily win since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China in late 2019.

We think the print implies mass GGR recovered to 120%+ of 2019, about 10 percentage points higher than the pace of recovery in recent months,” the note explained.

Citigroup analysts said VIP play was up as much as 14% on a month-to-month basis during the holiday, and mass play was up almost 10%.

The VIP gauge is essentially critical, as Macau casinos are developing new ways to lure high rollers to the region after junket groups moved out. The travel organizers largely departed the market after Alvin Chau, the face of the junket industry, was prosecuted on gambling crimes and criminal association and sentenced to 18 years in a Chinese prison.

Rebound Rolling

Macau casinos are fresh off their first full year of COVID-19 recovery. After Xi in late 2022 lifted “zero-COVID,” the controversial program that limited travel, tourism began to rebound in 2023.

The six casino operators — Sands, Galaxy, MGM, Wynn, Melco, and SJM — won $22.7 billion in 2023. That represented a 334% rebound from 2022, when the casinos kept just $5.3 billion of gamblers’ bets.

January 2024 continued the rally, as GGR last month totaled $2.4 billion — up 67% year-over-year and 4.1% month-to-month.

Analysts focused on the Chinse casino capital are projecting February GGR to come in around MOP19.5 billion (US$2.42 billion). If that is realized, February 2024 would represent an 88% year-over-year increase.