If you thought everything had been brought to a standstill in Macau with lockdowns and border closures due to the pandemic, think again. In the last three years, Macau has ploughed on relentlessly to come up with innovative tourist products and new attractions – all in line with the Central Government’s strategy of developing this dynamic city into the ‘World Centre of Tourism and Leisure’.
To pave the way for a resumption of the tourist trade between the two SARs, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has already made a series of preparatory work, including AR updates. On the proclamation of easing travel restrictions, MGTO immediately leapt into action by organizing a two-day familiarization visit for about 40 Hong Kong tourism industry leaders and 14 media representatives for a first-hand experience of its ‘tourism+’ elements, including tourist attractions at Macau’s World Heritage Site and tourism facilities of various mega integrated resorts.
In a networking seminar between Macau and Hong Kong travel trade representatives, the delegates found that, as a city of glitz and glamour that captures one’s imagination and pleases the senses, Macau has kept on renewing itself with something new, fresh and fascinating. Beyond the plush hotels, gastronomic indulgence, luxury entertainment, and world-class hospitality, there is always a host of innovative events happening – from festive celebrations to sports and cultural extravaganzas – that keeps visitors coming back for more.
Welcome with open arms
In addressing the delegation, Ms Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, MGTO Director, points out that in targeting Hong Kong, its second most important source market, MGTO has launched an array of promotional initiatives and special offers, including the very enticing buy-one-get-one-free offer for Hong Kong residents. Upon the purchase of shuttle bus or ferry ticket to Macau from 13 January to 31 March, you receive a free return ticket for use on another day.
In pursuance of the ‘tourism+’ concept, the Macau SAR government aims to reinforce cross-industry collaboration to achieve a broader diversification of its economy, explains Fernandes. By adopting a ‘1+4’ strategy, the government devotes sustained efforts in making Macau a ‘World Centre of Tourism and Leisure’, together with emphasis on developing the health, finance, technology, MICE, culture and sports sectors.
Expanding the pie
In response, Mr Yiu Pak-leung, MH, member of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR representing the tourism functional constituency, thanked the MGTO for its hospitality and the speed and efficiency with which the visit had been organized. He pointed out that he initiated the ‘travel bubble’ concept for travel between the two SARs as early as April 2020, but unfortunately it never took off due to the then worsening pandemic conditions.
Yiu emphasised that the two brother cities are not only each other’s favourite tourist destination, but also for the Mainland, with one complementing the other in terms of attractions. For the post-pandemic era, he urged both parties to deepen their collaboration. “Let’s increase the size of the pie, turning the whole Greater Bay Area into a world class tourist hotspot,” he urged.
“Tourism not only helps drive the economy and create employment opportunities, but also facilitates the exchange of culture,” he elaborates. “It is also the perfect medium to spread positive messages on the success of ‘one country, two systems’ and to tell China’s success story to the world at large.”
All geared up
The upbeat sentiment was echoed by Mr Lei Wai Nong, Secretary for Economy and Finance of the Macao SAR government, who noted at a welcome luncheon at the Wynn Palace that daily tourist arrivals had topped the 50,000 mark in the run up to the Lunar New Year. “We’re all geared up for a full-scale recovery,” he emphasized.
According to Mr Cheng Wai Tong, MGTO Deputy Director, tourist arrivals in 2022 numbered 570.2 million, a decline of 26% year on year. However, with the relaxation in entry requirements since 23 December, there was a steady increase with the number topping 28,100 on 31 December, the highest record since the November Golden Week. With further easing in entry requirements since 8 January 2023, the number broke the 50,000 mark for the first time on 14 January, with Hong Kong accounting for 20% of the total. The number of hotels has also risen from 126 in 2019 to the current 142, offering a total of 46,506 rooms.
New attractions galore
The Hong Kong delegation made the most of their jam-packed itinerary in covering a selection of the latest tourist highlights in Macau, including the Historic Centre of Macao, the expanded Macao Grand Prix Museum, and the facilities of various integrated resorts, such as the immersive art space Artelli and Restaurant L’Attitude at the City of Dreams, teamLab SuperNature at the Venetian Macao, the Fondant Art Exhibition, Sea Odyssey show and theatre at MGM Cotai, as well as the tourism and MICE facilities at Grand Lisboa Palace Resort, Galaxy Macau and Wynn Macau.
There were also opportunities to take in some Sino-Portuguese cultural and artistic performances, including Portuguese folk dance, and a performance by the Macao Chinese Orchestra at St. Dominic’s Church, and a visit to the MinM Plaza for some authentic souvenirs.
Major Chinese New Year Celebrations
1. Gigantic Golden Dragon Parade : 22 Jan 11:00am – 1:00pm
2. Parade for Celebration of the Year of the Rabbit : 24 Jan 8:00pm to 9:45pm, 28 Jan 8:00pm to 9:30pm
3. CNY Fireworks Display : 24 & 28 Jan 9:45pm; 5 Feb 9:00pm
4. Strolling on Almeida Ribeiro – Pedestrian area pilot project : 22-24 Jan, 4-5 Feb