New coronavirus cases halt Macau casino recovery

By William Brown Updated
Junket operators in Macau sharply declines

New cases of coronavirus in mainland China might delay the return of Macau’s once thriving casino industry.

GGR Asia reports that some of the new cases, in neighbouring Guangdong province, are likely to impact the enthusiasm for mainland residents to visit Macau.

Macau Travel Industry Council president Andy Wu Keng Kuong and Macau casino resort investor Hoffman Ma Ho Man agreed with the sentiment.

Both believed that it was however too early to tell if the recently reported cases would impact trade in the summer months of July and August.

Mainland China is the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel bubble with Macau, amid existing travel restrictions as countermeasures against COVID-19.

Guangdong province has been the largest source of Macau’s inbound mainland Chinese tourists in recent months, according to official data.

Nonetheless, in recent days, the number of mainland communities where residents would be subject to quarantine on arrival in Macau has been growing.

“The rising number of infections in Guangdong will for sure affect travel sentiment, and the number of incoming tourists for the near term,” remarked Mr Ma, deputy chairman and executive director at Hong Kong-listed Success Universe Group, an investor in Ponte 16.

Since mid-May, communities in Anhui, Liaoning and Guangdong have been added to Macau’s 14-day quarantine-on-arrival list.

Additionally, any inbound visitors that have been to relevant communities within those mainland provinces in the two weeks prior to their arrival in Macau, are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated venues.

Communities in the Guangdong cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen were recently added to Macau’s quarantine-on-arrival list, according to updates by Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre.

Success Universe’s Mr Ma believed that the coming “two to three weeks” would be the “key time” to watch if mainland China COVID-19 cases were curbed.

“But as in past experience, I think the mainland China authorities do have the capacity to quickly keep the COVID-19 development under control,” Mr Ma said.

The Ponte 16 boss added: “The summer break would still look positive for Macau, provided that the COVID-19 infection cases were all contained in the coming two to three weeks on the mainland.”

Macau industry hopes for bumper summer

Mr Ma said he had expected the Macau market to see continuous recovery in mass-market gaming and resort-visit business in July and August, a peak time for families’ outbound travel.

Macau Travel Industry Council’s Mr Wu said that his group estimated the city would welcome a daily average of “30,000 to 40,000 tourists for July and August, assuming that Macau’s travel ties with Hong Kong had not yet resumed by then.

“With that assumption, we think that Macau could achieve an average hotel occupancy of around 60 to 70 per cent for the summer break, as the city’s travel trade would still be supported by mainland China tourists,” he said.

But he admitted that the recent report of COVID-19 infections posed uncertainty on the timing of further easing of travel ties between the mainland and Macau.

The mainland’s electronic application system for Individual Visit Scheme exit visas is yet to be reinstated.

Group travel visas are also yet to be resumed.

Analysts have forecast that Macau’s mass revenue would reach US$11 billion in 2021 and US$18.4 billion in 2022.

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