Macau Visitor Arrivals Grew Eight Percent in First Half of 2018 to 16.8 Million

Posted on: July 23, 2018, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: July 23, 2018, 03:50h.

The Macau Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) reports Monday that visitor arrivals totaled a little more than 16.8 million people in January through June, an eight percent gain on the same period in 2017.

Macau visitor arrivals casinos
Macau casinos are welcoming more visitors in 2018. (Image: Shinya Sawai/Nikkei Asian Review)

Overnight visitors totaled 8.77 million, an increase of 8.3 percent, and same-day travelers totaled more than eight million, up 7.8 percent.

Mainland China accounts for the vast majority of travelers entering Macau at 11.7 million. Through the first half of the year, 13.3 percent more mainlanders have ventured to the gambling enclave.

Hong Kong is responsible for the second most visitors with three million people. Taiwan is third at 525,000, Korea is fourth (424,000), and Japan fifth at 158,000. The USA is sixth, with less than 100,000 people arriving in Macau from America.

Bridge Impact

Roughly two years behind its original planned opening, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB) is finally slated to take its first vehicles sometime this fall. The 34-mile expanse across the Pearl River Delta will shorten travel time from Hong Kong to Macau from approximately four hours to around an hour.

Once fully operational, the bridge will allow for the better flow of traffic from Hong Kong, the world’s fourth most densely populated region. However, Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen opined recently that the bridge won’t lead to a substantial increase in tourism to Macau in the short term.

“Visitation trends aren’t going to change,” Govertsen stated. He added there will be “no discernible impact on gross gaming revenue and non-gaming revenues” in the immediate months.

A limited number of bridge permits, which are being issued in phases, is one reason the bridge might not immediately grow tourism in the Special Administrative Region. To qualify for a permit, Macau residents needed to prove they regularly conduct business in Hong Kong. All 600 in the first batch went quickly at a cost of MOP 30,000 ($3,710) each.

Govertsen says the real benefit from the bridge will come if Macau’s casino resorts are able to tap into the Hong Kong airport. Casino day-trip shuttles are currently prohibited from using the HKZMB, but there’s no law stopping the resorts from partnering or hiring transportation companies to bring business travelers from Hong Kong to stay at their five-star properties.

Mass Marketing

To reduce their dependency on high rollers who are transported to the enclave via junket travel arrangements, Macau casinos have switched their focus to the general public.

The mass market is a higher margin demographic than the VIP. A casino industry more reliant on the general traveler also greatly reduces ongoing fears that China President Xi Jinping could again instruct law enforcement agencies to crack down on junket groups bringing mainlanders to the enclave.

The fact that visitation has soared eight percent in 2018 shows the goal of bringing more middle class people to Macau is being realized. Even more promising is that travel from China is up more than 13 percent.

Melco Resorts billionaire Lawrence Ho said unlike the last Macau boom in 2013-2014 that was led by VIP business, this time around it’s a combination of mass and high roller play.

Gross gambling revenue is up almost 19 percent through June.