Macau still feeling the sting of the coronavirus


Macau can’t catch a break. The Chinese New Year (CNY) should have been the beginning of a bright turn around year for the casino city, but the spread of the coronavirus immediately caused some activities to be canceled. Now halfway through the otherwise monumental celebration, the numbers continue to drop, and Macau is feeling an even larger sting than it had expected – or hoped. According to figures from the city’s number-crunchers, tourism has dropped off as much as 89% compared to last year during the current CNY festivities.

macau-still-feeling-the-sting-of-the-coronavirusAcross the first six days of the CNY, Macau has only seen 139,580 visitors coming from mainland China and just 243,204 from all markets. Yesterday saw 21,584 visitors as China has curtailed visits and the issuance of individual visas and tour groups to the city. And, things could continue to decline.

Many flights out of China and Taiwan to Macau, and vice versa, are being cancelled and may not be put back on the schedule until February 6, or later. Macau International Airport indicates that 177 inbound flights and around 168 outbound flights are now parked, awaiting further instructions. Xiamen Airlines, which normally has flights operating five days a week between Macau and the mainland, is canceling the service, and indicates that it may not resume the activity until the end of next month.

Casinos are feeling the pinch. Nomura’s Instinet group talked to casino operators in the city, who state that the gaming floors are “very quiet,” adding that revenue is now less than operational expenses, a trend that is going to continue as long as the travel bans are in place. According to a Las Vegas Sands executive, any reversal in the flow of money may not be seen until February or March.

While individual visas and tour groups are being restricted, it is still possible for Chinese mainlanders to visit the city. As JP Morgan Securities’ analysts explain, “Chinese visitors now need to obtain other types of permits/visas to enter Macau (such as transit, business or family visas, collectively accounting for 30 percent of Chinese visitors), which could be very inconvenient for gamblers.”

According to the BBC, there are now 7,711 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in mainland China, and the virus has spread to more than 16 countries around the world. The World Health Organization, initially against getting involved, is now taking the outbreak more seriously and is meeting today to determine if it needs to take a more proactive approach. The head of the organization, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said yesterday that the progress of the virus is worrisome and that the numbers “hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”