Commentary: Can Macao bet on tourism and gambling for economic recovery?
It will take some time before Chinese international tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels. Travel to Macao is expected to increase, but benefits to the local economy will depend on wider economic trends in the region.
On Jan 8, Macao reopened its border to foreign visitors by removing all mandatory quarantine requirements. Arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan no longer require COVID-19 testing to enter. The Macao Economic Association expects the reopening of Macao will speed up economic recovery.
Macao experienced a significant increase in daily visitor numbers in January, a pattern anticipated to continue through this year. Yet the reopening of international borders could lure mainland Chinese tourists further afield to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. These destinations, as well as other places in Southeast Asia, will compete with Macao to attract Chinese tourists.
BOOSTING TOURISM IN MACAO
Several factors could help make up for lost revenue in Macao’s tourism-based economy. Macao would benefit from adopting similar approaches to those of Thailand and Indonesia.
A multi-faceted promotional campaign that combines the public and private sectors would have the greatest impact. This could include a large-scale marketing drive combined with attractive travel packages, discounted hotel rates and new cultural attractions. This would encourage more tourists to visit and boost the local economy.
Economic diversification would also increase the resilience of Macao’s tourism industry and, over time, reduce its reliance on gambling and casino-based income. Tourists are increasingly interested in cultural and wellness-based tourism, which Macao could capitalise on as borders reopen.