Macau could be on track to welcome “six to 10 million” visitors in 2021, announced MGTO director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes at its annual press conference last week.
While this year's 10 million target might sound lofty to other destinations struggling to secure open borders, this figure is still a far cry from Macau's pre-pandemic numbers — the city welcomed 39.4 million tourists in 2019.
The road to recovery hasn't been easy, as evident in 2020 numbers and performance indicators.
"Since 23 September , China started re-issuing visas to Macau and we are now welcoming 20,000 visitors a day. We had three million visitors [last] January, and...the rest of the year [combined saw another] three million. So you can see how difficult it was for the entire industry," said Helena during Travel Weekly Asia 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards ceremony last December.
Things started to look up in August with the progressive reinstatement of travel permit issuance for mainland residents to Macau, which bumped up Q4's visitor arrivals by 150% and led to 30,668 arrivals on New Year’s Eve — the highest daily record ever since the start of the pandemic.
Despite Macau's rosier tourism trajectory for end 2020, overall arrivals still dropped by 85% year-on-year to nearly 5.9 million — of which 96.7% came from the Greater China markets. Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan region remained Macau’s top three visitor source markets.
As for the international markets, South Korea continued to lead the pack with more than 44,000 visitors in 2020, followed by 32,000 visitors from the Philippines before the global travel ban in March 2020.
In 2020, the average length of stay of all visitors and overnight-stay visitors to Macau both posted a slight improvement to 1.4 days and 2.8 days respectively. The length of stay of same-day visitors, on the other hand, stood at 0.2 day.
Overnight-stay visitor arrivals dropped by 84.9% to over 2.8 million, accounting for 47.9% of total visitor arrivals, whereas same-day visitor arrivals dropped by 85.2% to over 3.07 million.
Total visitor expenditure (including gaming expenditure) between January and September 2020 amounted to US$5.2 billion, marking a period-on-period decrease of 83.2%.
Macau's tourism head honcho says the destination could be welcoming “six to 10 million” visitors in 2021.
5 strategic focuses in 2021
To achieve 2021's goals, MGTO outlined five major work goals.
The intricate link between tourism, gaming, MICE and other emerging industries will be relooked, with the tourism body supporting operators to develop new tourism products and deepen cross-sector integration of “tourism +”. Think “tourism + MICE”, “tourism + culture and creativity”, “tourism + e-commerce”, “tourism + sports”, etc.
Tourism stakeholders' voices will continue to be key when it comes to policy making, as part of the continued Macao Tourism Industry Development Master Plan. Five key issues will be examined: economic contribution of tourism, regional cooperation in tourism, tourism carrying capacity, diversification of visitor source markets and smart tourism development led by technology.
Macau will continue promoting its destination's safety, with a focus on the mainland visitor market. The international market remains on the radar, with future plans such as online seminars and presentations.
MGTO will be optimising iconic events and products to further Macau's allure, including plans to push a trial reopening of the remodelled Macao Grand Prix Museum in 1Q 2021, where guests can expect regular guided tours, special exhibitions and more.
Experiential tourism is another unwavering tourism hot ticket, which can be found in the "Step Out, Experience Macao's Communities - Walking Tour Routes” — which help to highlight local attractions and community businesses.
The tourism sector will receive a technology boost: all hotels, restaurants, night clubs and bars will receive digital licenses by end 2021. More tourism projects will stand to receive fundings this year, even as MGTO opens up more tourism-related data via the Macao SAR Government Open Data Platform to widen the potential of smart tourism.