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Recovering Macau

Guilherme RegoGuilherme Rego*
Guilherme Rego

One day after Mainland China announced new measures to combat the epidemic, Macau followed suit. The new change is bigger: we let our guard down and let the virus spread.

Some measures are maintained, so that the health services are able to cope with the number of infections. The reality is that today about 90 percent of the population is vaccinated and, according to the authorities, 90 percent of the population will not have to resort to the health system in case of infection. But the resistance of the elderly to vaccination – a vulnerable group – is still a concern, as well as the low vaccination rate among children.

These factors lead the Legislative Assembly to question the scientific basis of the new measures, as well as the surprising change from a rigid policy to a lighter one, and one of coexistence with the virus. Not least because authorities say that as a result of this transition, between 50 and 80 percent of the local community will be infected.

For the local economy, all changes are seen with good eyes.

It seems to have ended the chapter of successive setbacks in the arrival of a new outbreak, both in the border policy and in the drop in activity.

Read also: Macau hotels suffer from rising Covid-19 cases

It became impossible to plan for the medium-long term, because everything depended on the decisions of the authorities in the face of new community cases, always responding in an intolerant manner. Therefore, survival became the only possibility. Meanwhile, it is being reported that Hong Kong and the Mainland will relax border control soon.

It means that Macau will also be part of that conversation and will be able to regain its second largest visitor market – although it will not compare to the potential that the Mainland will have from now on (when the city will be more than it is today). Analysts argue that from Hong Kong may come the solution to the falling VIP market. And attracting international markets will also only be possible through cooperation with the neighboring region.

The Tourism Bureau is showing work by creating subsidies for travelers from the Mainland. This is an intelligent tool in ensuring competitiveness, because all provinces and cities in the Interior will adopt similar positions. The performance of the concessionaires in this field will be very important.

Read also: COVID-19: Macau registered 208 infection cases on Sunday

With or without diversification, the city will always be dependent on the tourism sector, which therefore depends on the effectiveness of the contest winners in attracting customers.

Although it is common knowledge that the attractiveness of Macau cannot only refer to gambling, there is a problem: it will take time to build a different image and there are many costs involved. Hong Kong is projected to recover from pre-pandemic levels by 2024 (and the region has already moved ahead of pandemic relaxation). Macau also needs time, and Beijing must have that awareness. The recovery of the game is what will enable everything else. And nothing can be done overnight.

*Executive Director of PLATAFORMA

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