Macau’s Golden Week visitors improve but are they gambling?

Macau's Golden Week visitors improve but are they gambling?

Macau's Golden Week visitors improve but are they gambling?Macau saw a surge of visitors during the annual Golden Week holiday period, although the average visitor may not have been gambling as much as they used to.

Figures released Monday by the Macao Government Tourist Office show 1.15m tourists descending on Macau during the Oct. 1-7 period, an 8% increase over last year’s holiday.

Mainland Chinese accounted for 970k (84%) of the total visitors, up 6.9% from last year. Taiwan and Hong Kong residents posted even stronger year-on-year gains, rising 15.7% and 12.5%, respectively. All told, what the official media refers to as ‘Greater China’ accounted for 95.5% of Macau’s holiday traffic.

Macau’s 37,627 hotel and rentable apartment rooms enjoyed a 92.3% occupancy rate, 5.1 points higher than Golden Week 2015, helped in part by reductions in three-star and two-star room rates.

Luxury hotel rooms enjoyed a 94.4% occupancy (+5.5%) despite prices rising 2.1% year-on-year to MOP 2k (US $250). Four-star room occupancy rose 3.9 points to 88.3% despite prices rising 2.8% to MOP 1,234.

Three-star room occupancy improved 5.7 points to 93.1%, two-stars were up a similar number to 78.2%, while apartments for rent were the lone decliner, falling 1.9 points to 75% despite prices falling 1.8% to just MOP 615.

Bloomberg illustrated its Golden Week coverage with the story of a couple that didn’t gamble at all during their stay, choosing instead to take their three-year-old son to the ‘fun zone’ in Melco Crown Entertainment’s Studio City property, where they saw a magic show and rode the venue’s iconic figure-eight ferris wheel.

Wells Fargo analysts said their checks of Macau’s gaming floors showed VIP and premium mass segments “performing well” but the rank-and-file mass market activity was “soft.” Like Bloomberg’s couple, the Wells Fargo team believes the great unwashed are “allocating their discretionary spending towards other entertainment activities.”

But Union Gaming’s Grant Govertsen said his team’s observations suggested that Golden Week “might very well have exceeded expectations from a gaming revenue perspective.” Govertsen said the positive growth the market displayed in September “has carried through to Golden Week, if not even better.”

Surveys over the past two years by Macau’s Institute for Tourism Studies have shown only around one-quarter of Macau visitors actually gamble during their stay. The most recent survey covering Q2 2016 showed just 8% of mainland and Taiwanese visitors ranked gambling as Macau’s number-one draw, compared to 19% of Hong Kong visitors.