The 10th GTEF took place between September 20 and 23, with around 1,500 delegates from around the world gathered at the Galaxy Convention Center to discuss the recovery of the tourism sector, as well as new models to practice. The first in-person edition since 2019 had Italy as the partner country and Shanghai as the featured city.
During the forum, the vice-president of the Global Tourism Economy Research Center (China), Xu Jing, considered that Asia will continue to be “a tourism powerhouse”. After Chinese tourism was practically non-existent with the various confinements and anti-pandemic restrictions implemented between 2020 and 2022, China is trying to revive its domestic market, making it easier for foreigners to visit the country. In a bid to attract more international visitors, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced a simplified visa application process on September 20, 2023.
More than 65 million international visitors traveled to China in 2019, earning the country nearly $900 billion in revenue, according to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Meanwhile, the rest of the world eagerly awaits the return of the millions of Chinese tourists who regularly traveled pre-pandemic. In 2019, China was the main tourist source market, with US$27.5 billion spent by Chinese tourists on trips abroad.
“We don’t need so many visitors”
On the closing day of the Forum, the vice-president and general secretary of GTEF, Pansy Ho Chiu King, pointed out that Macau’s tourism revenue has recovered significantly, reaching around 90 percent of pre-Covid levels. Ho highlighted the various entertainment and leisure options available in the city, in addition to gambling, as a factor that contributed to the recovery.
Following the lifting of restrictions, visitor arrivals to Macau have now reached around 60 percent of the volume recorded in 2019. “This count is expected to recover to around 90 percent of the pre-pandemic level by the end of this year” , said Pansy Ho, also president and CEO of gaming concessionaire, MGM China. Official data reveals that visitor arrivals to Macau totaled 17.63 million in the first eight months of 2023, representing an increase of more than 360 percent compared to the same period last year.
This number represents approximately 64.2 percent of the pre-Covid level, and in the month of August alone, the number of visitors reached approximately 88 percent of the value recorded in the same period in 2019.
“We don’t necessarily need to have as many visitors as we have in the past,” she explained. “Visitors used to come to Macau mainly to gamble, but now they come to shop, try various dining options and other forms of entertainment.”
At the same event, the director of Tourism Services (DST), Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, predicted an average of 100,000 visitors per day during the next National Day Golden Week, with a hotel occupancy rate exceeding 90 percent. Chinese National Day Golden Week runs from September 29 to October 6 – a longer period than usual as the holiday coincides with the Moon Festival.
The National Day holiday period is one of the peak tourism seasons for residents of inland China, whether inside or outside the country. Analysts at the Forum predicted a record 900 million domestic trips in the eight holiday days planned for this year’s Golden Week.
Events for everyone
At the closing ceremony, the Secretary for Economy and Finance of the Macao SAR Government, Lei Wai Nong, expressed the hope that the Forum will serve as an occasion to share the progress of the recovery of the city’s tourism and economic activities, as well as the The city’s comprehensive capabilities to organize conventions and exhibitions. A calendar of 40 MICE events is scheduled to take place between September and December, with the aim of attracting more than 400 thousand participants, according to the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM).
Macao SAR hosted more than 490 events in the first half of 2023, surpassing last year’s total of 477 events. Meanwhile, the total number of participants exceeded 700 thousand, indicating a 50 percent increase compared to the previous year. IPIM predicts a significant increase in Macau’s MICE sector for next year, with around 1,500 events currently on the calendar, or more than half the number of events planned for this year.