Macau remains positive on a ’21 rebound even as COVID-19 returns

Fireworks, Macau, Tower, Night, Sightseeing
Fireworks, Macau, Tower, Night, Sightseeing

The COVID-19 turbulence isn’t over yet. 2020 was a write-off for many businesses and, every time it seemed like the world was getting one step ahead of the pandemic, the pesky virus figured out how to weasel its way back in front. The gaming industry everywhere suffered significant setbacks because of the pandemic and Macau was one of the areas hit hardest, having spent many of its formative years concentrating on casinos. After losing as much as 75% of its gross gaming revenue (GGR) and seeing days where the number of visitors could be counted on one hand, Macau is ready to get back to work and is optimistic that this year will be much better.

Lei Wai Nong, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, said in a statement yesterday that the city will see a “stable and positive” economy this year, with optimism growing that Macau will be able to report GGR of around $16.28 billion. He pointed out that the forecasts for visitation weren’t hit, but emphasized the uptick that has been seen since mainland China began relaxing its visa travel regulations at the end of last summer. That culminated in a significantly higher level of traffic in the city to celebrate the new year. 

Lei added that one of the goals in 2021 is to entice visitors to stay longer in order to help support Macau’s recovery. He explained, “We are trying to keep mainland visitors to stay longer in Macau if the number of visitors does not increase greatly. We need to improve our services and products to make our visitors feel welcome and warm, and to attract them to visit Macau again.”

Those efforts, however, might prove to be more difficult than initially anticipated. When it seemed as though the world was finally coming to grips with how to keep COVID-19 from spreading and travel restrictions started to be reduced, Macau implemented a requirement that arrivals from foreign countries needed to produce a negative coronavirus test that had been administered within seven days. Now, as the virus is once again spiking everywhere, the city has reduced that timeframe to just 72 hours. Not only does this make it more difficult for last-minute visitors, but the simple fact that the virus is back is going to give would-be travelers reason to reconsider their journeys.

There’s also concern over how new anti-gambling laws in China will impact Macau’s gaming industry. China has banned any type of scheme that would promote offshore gambling in mainland China and some feel that this might even include marketing Macau’s casinos from within the country. Lei addressed this yesterday, explaining, “I believe that we have to observe the mainland China law as well as Macau’s gaming law and the relevant gaming regulations. That is a must. We have been making adjustments to our gaming law… and on our anti-money laundering standards. We will continue to work well on those aspects so that our gaming industry can sustain a healthy development.”