Macau Police: 85 Percent Fewer Visitors Arrived in Enclave Last Year

Posted on: January 14, 2021, 10:29h. 

Last updated on: January 14, 2021, 11:00h.

The Macau Public Security Police says the number of visitors who ventured into the Special Administrative Region (SAR) last year fell roughly 85 percent compared with 2019.

Macau visitor arrivals casino revenue
Macau police processed 85 percent fewer travelers into the casino hub in 2020. The drastic decline in visitor arrivals was the result of COVID-19, and the local government limiting entry. (Image: RTHK)

The law enforcement agency responsible for monitoring the flow of people in and out of the area said 5.92 million visitors traveled to Macau in 2020. Police explained that the world’s richest casino hub experienced a “rapid decline” in visitors beginning in late January.

COVID-19 resulted in Macau tightening its entries in January of 2020. Being an autonomous territory of China, the region is able to restrict who can and can’t enter.

With the coronavirus originating in the mainland, Macau took drastic steps to keep the respiratory disease outside of its borders. It largely worked. Macau has only reported 46 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. All have recovered. It’s a remarkable statistic.

In nearby Hong Kong, China’s other SAR, the region has reported 9,385 coronavirus cases and 161 deaths.

Macau hasn’t received a new positive test in more than six months.

COVID-19 Restrictions Sicken Economy

With mandatory 14-day quarantining on both sides of Macau and the mainland, few people traveled into the casino epicenter in 2020. Predominantly only those who needed to venture into Macau for essential reasons made the time-consuming voyage.

Macau was a ghost town last year as a result of nearly 33.5 million fewer visitors making their way into the enclave. The six licensed casino operators reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $7.53 billion for the 12 months, a 79 percent drop from 2019.

Gaming analysts kicked off the 2021 new year with a sense of optimism. The consensus projection for 2021 GGR was a return to 70 to 75 percent of 2019 casino win, or around $26.5 billion.

COVID-19, however, isn’t done. A new variant strain of the coronavirus has resulted in Macau again reimplementing entry rules.

Mainland people who visited another country within the past three weeks are prohibited. Visitors from the mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan who haven’t traveled internationally recently are able to enter but must undergo a supervised quarantine ranging from two to three weeks.

Visitor Rebound

Assuming the new coronavirus strain is not immune to the vaccines being distributed around the world, the general thought is that incoming visitors will return to Macau in the coming months.

Another key to that happening is the resumption of self-service kiosks for China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS). Launched in 2003 to better the economies of Hong Kong and Macau, the IVS program allows mainlanders to visit the two SARs on an individual basis. Prior to its development, mainland residents could only visit the regions on business visas or via group tours.

Since September 23, all mainland China residents can obtain IVS permits. However, the kiosks remain suspended. Would-be travelers must go to an immigration office and apply for an IVS permit, which currently can take as long as two weeks to process.