Macau has long been a popular side trip from Hong Kong and tourism statistics show that this has not changed, despite the ongoing protests in the currently troubled city.
There had been concern that the protests would have a negative effect on tourist numbers to Macau. This belief was due to the fact that a number of visitors to the city arrive via Hong Kong International Airport – known to be one of the busiest airports in the world – as there are a greater number of airlines operating out of Hong Kong, plus there is also a bigger chance of scoring cheaper flight deals. Travel between the two cities has also been made easier and less expensive by the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau (HLZM) Bridge last October, meaning flying into Hong Kong and entering Macau is extremely simply.
However, these concerns seem to be unfounded, according to statistics released by the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO). The head of the MGTO, Helena de Senna Fernandes, disclosed to local media at a recent public event that the tourist numbers for August have continued climbing year-on-year. The city’s Statistics and Census Service will release the official figures later this month.
When the Hong Kong protests began at the beginning of the summer, it was feared that the city would see a significant drop in visitor numbers. However, one idea put forward to combat this was to focus more on package tour products promoting Macau as a single destination rather than two-city trips in conjunction with Hong Kong. For a long time, the tourism board in Macau has wanted to increase the number of longer-term vacationers in order to create more revenue; overnight visitors generally generate more income than day-trippers, which would be a boost to the local economy.
Macau is a popular destination for gamblers, who make up the vast majority of tourists visiting the city. In July this year, the number of visitors reached 3.53 million, an increase of 16.3% from the previous year. Almost 2.6 million of those tourists were from China’s mainland and they make up the bulk of visitors to Macau. This was an increase of 18.5% year-on-year. Package tours to the city remain ever popular, with 869,900 people travelling to Macau in July doing so via a tour. 713,900 of these were from China; this figure showed an increase of around 20% in Chinese nationals taking Macau package tours.
Despite the protests having been going on for around three months, there is no indication that they will slow down in the near future. Initially, Hong Kong citizens began protesting over proposed plans – now withdrawn – that would have allowed extradition from the city to mainland China. The protests have since developed to reflect the wider demands for democratic reform. Hong Kong was returned to China after being on loan to Great Britain in 1997 on the proviso that politically it was “one country, two systems”. While the city’s citizens still enjoy many freedoms not afforded to their mainland counterparts, rights groups have accused China of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs in recent years.
While the Hong Kong protests may show no signs of stopping, it’s clear that Macau isn’t seeing any drastic effects on their tourism industry.