The numbers of the Golden Week of Labor Day prove the galloping recovery that Macau has had since the reopening of the borders. Not only in the number of visitors, but also in the sector that matters right now – the game. The data only confirm what the eyes see: crowds accumulate in the (few) tourist spots in the city. All great for the local economy. For residents, the same cannot be said.
The Executive presses to increase the number of visitors. Ho Iat Seng reiterated this will in April and added to his thinking: the tourist sector should not be reformatted to receive only visitors with greater purchasing power. Okay, sign below. Several companies in Macao are not suited to satisfy this high-end market. Furthermore, their survival depends on tourists with less purchasing power, who naturally plan to spend less when they travel. The cost of a trip, from transport, accommodation and service prices are predominant in the choice of tourists. If Macau becomes a very expensive city, in the eagerness to quickly recover the losses of the last three years, it may even spoil its future – and financially complicate the quality of life of residents. We must be a multifaceted city, with an offer for all tastes, shapes, and incomes.
Translating to a concept known by all: a diverse city. All of this is true. But it is also a fact that crowds cause residents extreme discomfort. Those who live in Macau end up being in two opposite poles at the moment: they are the biggest beneficiaries of the economic recovery, but also the most harmed. Service prices have risen dramatically and mobility, whether due to traffic or the lack of a taxi, has made life more difficult.
The problem has a solution. It is not about fewer tourists with greater purchasing power (although this segment must continue to be developed); it is about adding to the traditional tourist offer, avoiding the accumulation of tourists in a few spaces that, by the way, are also inevitably used daily by residents. The authorities have even closed traffic in favor of tourists and are considering making this practice a habit.
Little can be evaluated in these first four months of reopening, but there is data acquired. Fewer and fewer visitors are coming to Macau to gamble in the casinos, and more and more are those with lower purchasing power – thus moving away from the concessionaires’ properties. That said, it is up to the public sector to use its heritage and reclassify certain areas of the city in favor of tourism. More offer, less people accumulated in one place. At the same time, it is up to the private sector to capitalize on the opportunities – creating new Ruas do Cunha, diverting the crowds.
Because the demand is visible, and Macau is sinning on supply. Although we only have 33 square kilometers to offer, it is common knowledge that tourist activity is concentrated in a few streets and concessionary properties, when in fact there are “deserted” areas that can be used for this purpose. Both the public and the private sectors have responsibilities in this regard, but it is up to the Government to create incentives for companies to establish themselves in certain neighborhoods and revitalize them. It is up to the Government to create a win-win situation, where developing the tourist offer translates into an increase in the quality of life of residents and gives them back the city.
*Executive Director of PLATAFORMA