Moving between Macau and Hengqin Island will become easier in December. The People’s Republic of China signed off on removing the previous necessity of having two border checkpoints.
Macau, a sovereign Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic that has a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle, requires non-locals to arrive into the enclave through one of its border crossings. Hengqin is an island in Zhuhai under Chinese government control.
The SAR is the world’s richest gaming hub, the six licensed casino operators winning $37.8 billion on their floors last year. China has urged Macau to issue incentives that encourage non-gaming investments.
But Macau’s small area – measuring only 44.5 square miles – makes that mission difficult. As a result, the People’s Republic is stripping its border crossing checkpoint mandate to Hengqin Island.
Bridging the Gap
Hengqin Island is adjacent to Macau on the west, connected by the Lotus Bridge. The bridge dumps incoming visitors to the southern end of the Cotai Strip.
Currently, automobile passengers must go through two checkpoints: one on the Macau side, and another in Hengqin. China’s National People’s Congress approved a recommendation that the checkpoint on Hengqin be removed in order to allow a better flow of traffic.
The decision by the Chinese federal government will grant Macau certain jurisdiction over the boundary checkpoint. Macau officials argued the expansion of the Greater Bay Area, and subsequent increase in mass market travel due to the opening of the Hong Kong to Macau bridge, has resulted in the current Lotus Bridge checkpoint configuration no longer being able to adequately handle the growing flow of automobiles.
Authorities told GGRAsia that the new checkpoint procedure should be operational in December. The agreement between the People’s Republic and Macau will run through December 19, 2049, when the SAR’s sovereignty is set to expire – at least, temporarily.
Gaming will remain prohibited on Hengqin, Macau being the only place in China where casinos can operate. But the six license holders are investing heavily on the nearby island in order to overhaul their business models and increase their bottom lines.
The casino giants are building new hotels and MICE space (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions), and with the easing of traffic across Lotus, that should entice more businesses to hold their events there. The Hong Kong to Macau bridge additionally gives the enclave access to one of the world’s top 10 busiest airports – now accessible by just a 45-minute drive.
The Hyatt Regency Hengqin announced this week it’s on track to open in December. The 493-room hotel is part of the Novotown complex. The island is becoming littered with five-star resorts, and because they don’t have casinos, they typically offer cheaper rates.
Nightly rates at the five-star Parisian on the Cotai Strip next week are $212. At the five-star Chimelong Hengqin, rooms are just $126 – a savings of more than 40 percent.