Macau Travel Controls Unlikely to be Relaxed in Coming Days

Posted on: May 6, 2020, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2020, 11:45h.

Authorities in Macau are denying that the Special Administrative Region’s (SAR) strict travel controls with mainland China are set to ease in the coming days, saying that there’s still some work to be done.

Macau travel restrictions
Macau is urging patience when it comes to loosening travel controls with mainland China. (Image: Macau Daily Times)

After gross gaming revenue (GGR) slid almost 97 percent last month, Macau policymakers are motivated to loosen harsh travel policies implemented as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. But officials there must work with other leaders in other regions – namely mainland China – to make that happen.

Downplaying rumors circulating on social media claiming border restrictions would be removed by the end of this week, the Health Bureau clarified that Macau is still negotiating with the mainland Chinese government,” reports Inside Asian Gaming.

One area of focus for leaders in the gaming enclave when it comes to liberalizing travel rules is the mainland province of Guangdong. That’s the largest province on mainland China and the one closest to Macau. Guangdong is currently enforcing a 14-day quarantine policy for any visitors entering the region, regardless of where they’re from. Industry analysts and executives believe that plan is hindering Macau’s recovery efforts.

Trying to Recover

China was the original epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the first case of the respiratory illness documented in Macau in January. In February, officials there forced gaming properties to close for 15 days. The move proved effective at limiting new coronavirus cases, but was a blow to the concessionaires, as GGR plunged almost 88 percent in February and nearly 80 percent in March.

To date, there are 45 confirmed coronavirus cases on the peninsula, with 39 patients fully recovered and no deaths. While that case tally is modest compared to other parts of Asia and casinos there are open, travel bans, including those enforced by Hong Kong and Taiwan in addition to China, are suppressing visitation numbers.

Last month, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng said the peninsula will run a deficit in the current fiscal year due to lower gaming revenue, marking the first time that’s happened since the enclave was handed over to China from Portugal more than two decades ago.

Signs of Hope

While travel to Macau from the mainland was limited over the recent Labor Day holiday, the same wasn’t true regarding intra-China trips. That indicates life in the world’s second-largest economy is starting to inch back to normalcy in the wake of COVID-19.

“Labor Day travel and spending statistics look promising, with 8mm train rides reported and 104mm total trips (not 100% on the definition of total trips, but I assume it includes road, rail, and air) generating over $6 billion in revenue,” said KraneShares Chief Investment Officer Brendan Ahern in a note out earlier today.

Ahern points out that the Shanghai Disney theme park is slated to reopen on a limited basis next week. Obviously, that’s not a Macau attraction, but Beijing signing off on that venue opening for visitors could be an indication that restrictions affecting the gaming center could soon be loosened.