Macau visitor numbers hit nearly 700,000 in January but lag well behind 2019

CHINA. Total visitor arrivals to Macau rose by +24.7% year-on-year in January to 694,430, according to new figures from the Macao Government Tourism Office.

Due to strict travel restrictions into Macau, almost all the arrivals (94.5%) were from Mainland China. Visitor numbers from the Mainland increased by +29.4% to 642,016.

The numbers still pale compared with those of pre-pandemic 2019, when the Special Administrative Region attracted 3,425,126 visitors, of whom 2,504,494 were from the Mainland. In that month, Macau also drew 99,463 Korean visitors – a market that has since dried up completely.

However, although arrival figures are still well short of 2020 and (especially) 2019 figures, average retail spends are understood to be tracking extremely well.

“The traffic is not heavy at all, hotel rates are very low, but per person spend is definitely up,” one senior retail executive told The Moodie Davitt Report. “Unfortunately, CNY did not happen as we had hoped but I am still very confident Macau will come back very strong.”

Ready to bounce back: Passenger volumes at Macau International Airport during Chinese New Year were much improved on those of 2021 but 2019 numbers remain a distant target {Photo: Macau International Airport Co}
Source: Macau Government Tourism Office; Click to expand

In related news, Macau International Airport (MIA) passenger traffic is expected to recover to about 30% of pre-pandemic levels this year, according to Macau International Airport Co (CAM). Reporting the news, Macau Daily Times noted that about ten routes were re-launched in 2021, including those to Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Ningbo, Tianjin, Chongqing, Wenzhou, Nanning and Nanjing.

“Passenger traffic volumes for East China routes have been relatively stable and accounted for about 80% of traffic volume in 2021,” the report said.

Better days are coming but 2019 passenger volumes remain a long way off. Click here to read the Macau Daily Times report.

During the recent Chinese New Year holiday, the airport served over 29,000 passengers, an encouraging +208% increase compared to the same period last year, but just 16% of 2019 levels. There were over 270 flights, an increase of +75% compared to the same period in 2021.

Last year, Macau International Airport served 1,147,015 passengers, down -2.2% year-on-year and just 11.9% of the 9,611,427 recorded in 2019. The result represented the lowest passenger volume since 1995.

Travel retailers China Duty Free/King Power Group and The Shilla Duty Free will be hoping for a steady increase in business this year {Photo: Macau International Airport Co}
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Macau casino gross gaming revenue (GGR), a key indicator for retail business, is likely to reach only 30-40% of 2019 levels, according to analysts at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings in a recent noted by gaming publication GGRAsia. Rising cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and a “tightening of junket activities will likely result in a slower recovery for the gaming sector in Macau,” the report said.

The same title reported on Friday that according to Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng reinstatement by the Mainland authorities of Macau-bound package tours might require “more time”. That was due to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Shenzhen and Dongguan, in Guangdong province, next door to Macau, as well as those in Hong Kong.

Ho said that he believed the Mainland authorities would not allow a “large volume” of visitors into Macau in the near term due to the current pandemic pressures, the report said.

Click on the image to read the GGRAsia report
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