Macau Resumes Marketing Casino Destination on Mainland, Opens Enclave to Some Foreigners

Macau casinos are desperately awaiting China’s go-ahead for the enclave to reopen its borders to foreigners. The six gaming giants recently received a bit of good news after the People’s Republic and local government in Macau announced the resumption of some foreigner entries into the casino hub.

The Hengqin Port connects travelers to Macau and the Cotai Strip by way of the Lotus Bridge. After more than two years of operating casino ghost towns, Macau casinos are beginning to see a rebound in visitor numbers. (Image: AFP)

The Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) announced Friday that foreigners who have been in mainland China for 10 or more days now qualify to travel to Macau. No leisure foreigners have been permitted to travel to Macau since the pandemic’s global onset in early 2020.

Visitors who have been in China for at least 10 days can travel leisurely into Macau so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test. Those arriving from neighboring Zhuhai must present a negative test conducted within the past 48 hours. Foreigners arriving from the rest of China qualify to present a negative coronavirus test completed within the past seven days.

Foreigners arriving in China must still undergo a weeklong isolation period upon entry into the mainland.

Visitors Returning

Macau casinos operated in the world’s rich gaming market prior to the global pandemic. But those days are long gone, as Nevada and Las Vegas have experienced a quick gaming rebound that has outperformed pre-pandemic business and overtook the world’s gaming industry as the top market.

The six gaming operators in Macau, once the envy of all other global casino firms not licensed to conduct gaming in the Chinese enclave, have lost billions of dollars in unrealized revenue — both gaming and general resort operations — because of China’s “zero-COVID” policy. The stern reactionary policy requires responses that greatly limit daily life and nonessential business operations in wake of new cases.

Through seven months of 2022, Macau casinos are more than $18.2 billion short in terms of gross gaming revenue (GGR) from where they were in 2019. The casinos, of course, need many visitors to keep their large integrated resorts and huge gaming floors bustling.

Slowly but surely, a visitor rebound is underway. The region’s decision in early August to lift the seven-day quarantine rule for visitors traveling between Macau and Zhuhai has already resulted in a meaningful uptick in visitation.

The MGTO said the tally for the week ending August 18 was about 81,800 visitors. That represents a 56% improvement from the previous week.

Marketing Resumes

Along with the bump in visitor arrivals, the MGTO confirmed that it’s resuming its marketing of Macau on the mainland. The government travel authority said it’s deploying a new advertising campaign in the coming days that will try and lure mainlanders into returning to Macau for what will be for many their first cross-border vacation in more than two years.

Macau’s tourism promotion will be done through a partnership with provinces and cities in the Greater Bay Area, including Guangdong and Hong Kong.

Air Macau, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned China National Aviation Holding Corporation, also recently announced its planned resumption of travel between Macau and several mainland cities, most importantly Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Qingdao.

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