Posted on: January 20, 2024, 12:29h.
Last updated on: January 19, 2024, 05:31h.
The Macau government expects tourism to further rebound this year to the Chinese enclave where casinos fuel the local economy.
The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) this week revealed its 2024 visitor expectations. The tourism agency said it believes roughly 33 million people will travel into the Chinese Special Administrative Region.
This month, the daily average of visitors entering Macau is around 70,000 to 80,000 people per day, reaching over 100,000 on weekends. This stable baseline has led the MGTO to expect to reach about 33 million visitors for the entire year by the end of 2024,” a government statement reported by the Macau Daily Times read.
If Macau realizes 33 million visitors this year, it would represent nearly 84% of the traffic the enclave experienced in pre-pandemic 2019. Macau welcomed 28.2 million visitors last year, nearly five times the number of tourists who traveled to the city in 2022 when China remained under COVID-19 restrictions.
Before the coronavirus, Macau was the richest casino market on planet Earth, and it wasn’t even close. Casinos in Nevada in 2019 won $12 billion. That same year, the six gaming operators in Macau won more than three times that amount.
Macau casinos that year recorded gross gaming revenue in excess of $36.5 billion. And that was a 3.4% decline from 2018.
However, things changed in Macau amid the global health crisis. Beijing, feeling its national security threatened by the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, told Macau government leaders that the massive outflow of capital from the mainland to the tax haven of Macau presented state security risks.
President Xi Jinping’s directives essentially led to the prosecution of Alvin Chau, the billionaire face of Macau’s VIP junket industry who ran Suncity. Junkets quickly closed shop and fled to other gaming markets in Asia in fear of being similarly prosecuted for gambling crimes.
Chau maintained his innocence but was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association. In the wake of junkets no longer escorting wealthy mainlanders to Macau’s private high roller rooms, the casinos are embarking on diversification. The pivot comes in partnership with the Macau government, which in late 2022 issued the six operators 10-year license extensions in exchange for nearly $18 billion in pledged commitments to nongaming projects.
Casinos are focused on an array of new amenities to lure mainlanders, specifically families and business travelers in what’s seemingly a page out of the Las Vegas playbook. For those investments to provide a return, Macau needs to win over the mass public in mainland China as being an ideal place for leisure and business.
International Segment in Focus
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, the MGTO director, highlighted that international visitor traffic to Macau remains more suppressed from pre-pandemic levels than visitor arrivals from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
This year, the MGTO will focus on overseas markets, and in the first half of the year will organize roadshows in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia,” Senna Fernandes explained. “We also plan to participate in travel shows in Europe.”
Macau casinos won $22.7 billion in 2023, a 334% year-over-year surge and a 111% increase on 2021.