Chinese New Year should be even better than what Macau’s Government has predicted. The age and habits of tourists entering the SAR have changed compared to 2019. Industry members talked to PLATAFORMA about cutting with the past and the need to have new ideas and itineraries for a market that has been renewed
For the first time in three years, it is no longer mandatory to present negative nucleic acid test upon entry to Macau for those coming from the Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The measure came into effect on January 8.
In the first three days since the pandemic prevention measures were relaxed, 213,000 entries and exits were recorded at Macau’s border crossings (109,000 entries and 104,000 exits), according to the Public Security Police. Areas such as the Ruínas de São Paulo and Largo do Senado were crowded, with the first days since that reopening bringing more than 35,000 visitors a day to the city.
It was like a return to the good old days of Macau. “On the 8th, there were 38,000 visitors coming in, on the 9th, some 36,000 and on the 10th about 35,000. You can say that tourism is really being reborn,” Wu Keng Kuong, president of the Macau Tourism Industry Association, tells PLATFORM. For the association leader, the numbers are surprising, as he did not expect such a rapid recovery since the government launched the estimate of 40,000 daily visitors for 2023.
Hu Keng Kuong believes that the return of group tours from the mainland have allowed the city to reach these numbers, and points out that with improved transport links between Hong Kong and Macau, the recovery in visitor volume will be even faster. David Dai, vice-president of the Macau Hoteliers Association, said that “the star-rated hotels are registering 70-80 percent occupancy since January 8.
The Macau Tourism Board (MGTO) will also offer discounts on round-trip ferry or bus tickets for visitors from Hong Kong from January 13, to encourage these tourists to stay overnight in Macau.
To the local press, DST Deputy Director Cheng Wai Tong said that the response from the transport sector has been positive, with two ferry companies – TurboJET and Cotai Water Jet – and one bus company – Hong Kong-Macao Express – cooperating in this promotion scheme. As for other sea and land transportation companies, they are currently in negotiations to boost the flow of visitors.
Read more about it: TurboJET: Ready to relaunch Macau-Hong Kong ferry service
Commenting on the government’s plans, Hu Keng Kuong is optimistic about the future, believing that the measures will benefit the local community. “The launch of the ferry ticket policy in Macau has brought visitors from Hong Kong, our second largest tourist market.”
CHINESE NEW YEAR EXPECTED TO EXCEED FORECASTS
The peak of bookings should be around five to seven days, David Dai tells PLATAFORMA. He told our newspaper that a week ago he was expecting 40,000 visitors over the festive holidays. However, the last three days give him confidence to go a little further, believing that Macau should exceed 50 thousand during the Chinese New Year period.
Meanwhile, the authorities have said they expect a maximum of 50,000 visitors per day during the Lunar New Year. This is 70 percent less than the numbers registered before the pandemic, much due to the still irregular situation of sea and air transport, claim the authorities.
Read also: The tourists wanted in Macau
Hu Huifang, representative of the Macau Tourist Guide Association, also expects many tourists from Hong Kong on the holidays. According to him, the available tour guides will be sufficient to cope with the number of visitors, “because group tours are not expected to arrive so soon and independent travelers do not need their services. There were many tour guides who went to work part-time for Covid-19 testing stations. Now that the stations are closed, they will be available. The full relaxation of the preventive measures brings us all a lot of hope.”
REUNION OF OLD FRIENDS
Arriving in Macau by bus on the morning of January 8, Hong Kong residents spoke to PLATAFORMA about the return of the link between the two regions.
Ah Fai and two friends never thought that the nearest place to Hong Kong would one day be so difficult to reach. Carrying two bags of almond cakes on his way back to Hong Kong, he tells our newspaper that his last visit to Macau seems to have been “in another life,” referring to the three years he had no contact with the city. Before the pandemic, Ah Fai mainly traveled through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Taiwan.
But, “maybe because I was stuck in Hong Kong for so long, coming to Macau, eating a pastel de nata and strolling through Cotai is already an indescribable travel feeling.” Jane and her husband, who haven’t visited the city in a long time, say that new attractions have emerged in the last three years. The Pancake Factory Museum and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Guia, which were part of the couple’s itinerary, are tourist spots that did not exist before the pandemic.
“When I came to Macau I had an indescribable feeling of familiarity. But compared to the past, the city is now calmer and less crowded,” he notes.
NEW TOURISM TRENDS
Macau’s tourism industry has undergone a quiet revolution in the past three years in terms of promotion methods. On the Chinese online platform Xiaohongshu, where Internet users can exchange shopping and travel recommendations, one can see the director of the Tourism Bureau, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, promoting the city.
“It’s a matter of fashion, you can’t do the tours the way we used to. We, as tour guides, also need to keep up with these changes. We can’t go back to the old days,” says Hu Huifang.
In his opinion, shorter and more personalized tours need to be organized. “Nowadays most of the clients are young people. Before we had older people in larger groups. The market trend now is to post photos on social media. Even older people are already starting to be part of this movement.”
Faced with this change in the tourism market, the president of the Macau Tourism Industry Association indicates that tour guides in Macau have to opt for a new approach, explaining that if the tour itinerary is based on attractions, the itinerary for these new tourists will have to be different from the old one, otherwise it ceases to be attractive. For this reason, our newspaper informs that the association has been collaborating with mainland travel agencies to create new itineraries in Macau.
During the pandemic, the MGTO launched the “Tours, gastronomy and accommodation for Macau residents”, in an attempt to boost the local tourism industry. A project that Hu Huifang believes has helped to renew the sector. On the other hand, he confesses that it has helped tour guides to create new ideas for tours in Macau. As an example, he points to the “Study Tour Itineraries”, which can only be realized after much research.
For these tours, the recipients are Macau secondary, primary and special education students who hold a Macau resident ID card.
“Our industry is ready. The most important thing now is to build customer loyalty and explore the possibility of collaborating with other industries, including hospitality, catering or marketing, hoping that all industries will benefit, not just one,” he concludes.