Hong Kong and Macau travel bubble could boost casino trade

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Macau’s recovery slower than expected; linked to Chinese economy

Macau’s casinos are desperate for patrons and a travel bubble with neighbouring Hong Kong could go a long way to easing the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Calvin Ayre.

Hong Kong’s attempt to create a travel bubble spurred recent tumours that Macau would not be part of the deal.

The Chinese province of Guangdong is expected to figure into the quarantine zone Hong Kong is looking to create, but local media quoted chief executive Carrie Lam as saying there would be “technical issues” blocking Macau from the group.

If the deal pushes through, the governments of each region would mutually recognise COVID-19 test results conducted by local testing facilities.

To be allowed to travel within the bubble, a visitor would not be allowed to have left the bubble in the last 14 days.

Lam later dismissed suggestions the bubble would open without Macau, offering that she has instead spoken with Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng about involving the region.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, said the government is discussing the arrangement for mutual recognition of virus test results and exemption of cross-border travellers from compulsory quarantine.

“Details will be separately announced after the discussion has completed,” Chan said.

This could be the boost Macau’s tourism industry needs, according to University of Macau’s Professor in Integrated Resort and Tourism, Desmond Lam.

“I think it would be very beneficial,” Professor Lam said.

“I don’t expect the gaming revenue to shoot up to the previous levels, but just opening up the borders with Hong Kong would mean a lot to the gaming and F&B sides. It would be sufficient for the COVID-19 pandemic recovery and it is what we need.”

The professor went on to note that although more than half of Macau’s visitors typically come from Guangdong and Hong Kong, even if they do return, they are not likely to spend as much.

“I think it is very likely they will not spend the same money as before because they might limit their visits in terms of days, take shorter trips and limit exposure to areas that might seem too crowded,” he said.

“I think spending might drop per visitor, but at least there will be some expenditure.”

Macau to slowly allow travellers to return

Macau is slowly getting back some of its visitors since the pandemic closures.

Earlier this month, the territory made a deal with Guangdong province to create week long passes for some residents to travel freely between the territories.

In mid-June the Macau government announced it will be launching a shuttle service to the Hong Kong International Airport, intended to bring residents back who may have been stranded abroad.

These locals will have to be quarantined for two weeks before they are allowed to move freely around the special administrative region.

These announcements come just a week after Macau’s chief executive travelled to Guangdong to discuss how to relax border restrictions.

While his apparent success appears to be limited for now, if this small measure goes well, it is promising for greater cross border travel in the future.

Resort operators like Galaxy Entertainment sorely need the relief, with its chairman Lui Che Woo revealing the company hopes restrictions are soon lifted, with the company spending $2.8 million per day at present.

“The suspension of casinos has impacted our business greatly,” Lui said.

“It’s hard to calculate our loss during the pandemic, but we must follow and respect the government policies in preventing the spread.”

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