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Macau Lunar New Year surge snarls border crossings; Stanley Ho in hospital

TAGs: Chinese new year, Macau, stanley ho

macau-stanley-hoHordes of revelers continue to descend on Macau for Lunar New Year celebrations. The Government Tourist Office reported a total of 162k visitors on Tuesday, a 16.4% bump over the same period last year. Visitors from the mainland were up 24.6% to 114k. Thursday brought a further 155k visitors (+7.7%), with 112k from the mainland (+17.1%). The first five days of this Year of the Snake have welcomed a combined 718k visitors to Macau, an increase of 17.7% over the Year of the Dragon’s tally, and the weekend is expected to produce a fresh surge of revelers.

The visitor bounty has not been all gravy. Macau’s border crossings have been overwhelmed at times and the authorities have occasionally resorted to “tidal flow” measures, stranding hundreds of people at the north border Barrier Gate checkpoint for hours as police restricted the number of people allowed into the immigration hall. The congestion has renewed calls to speed up construction of the new channel linking Guangdong and Macau but Government Tourist Office head Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes said it would be wrong to “use this holiday season to evaluate the overall tourism capacity of Macau.” Regardless, Fernandes insisted the government had been “learning lessons from this incident.”

The human waves breaking across Macau during Lunar New Year may well produce a record month for gaming revenue, especially if next week brings an ‘echo’ surge by VIP gamblers. Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen told Bloomberg that next week could see “a continued level of strength” at the gaming tables from VIP and premium-mass gamblers “who didn’t want to deal with the crowds.” Snobs… On a related note, J.P. Morgan analyst Kenneth Fong issued a note to clients this week saying his industry contacts had heard no further news of an imminent crackdown on Macau junket operators supposedly set to be unleashed after Lunar New Year celebrations have concluded.

Not particularly enjoying this year’s celebrations is former SJM Holdings boss Stanley Ho. The 92-year-old former king of Macau was rushed into an intensive care unit at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital on Sunday, suffering from a high temperature and a cold. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily quoted daughter Angela Ho Chui-yin saying her father was “doing well, much better now” and could be released Friday or Saturday. Get well soon, Stanley.

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