DestinationsWith the pandemic steadily under control internally, Macau has set its next goals for the remaining of 2020: stepping up economic recovery and reopening the tourism sector. Here's what to expect

Macau's Next Chapter: Hotels and Travel Industry Unite

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With firm control over the containment of COVID-19, the Macao SAR Government’s next step: economic recovery and reopening the tourism sector. CREDIT: Macao Government Tourism Office USA
With firm control over the containment of COVID-19, the Macao SAR Government’s next step: economic recovery and reopening the tourism sector. CREDIT: Macao Government Tourism Office USA

Reporting 45 cases and zero deaths as of mid-May, Macau is one of a few destinations to list such low figures, attributed to its government’s early and effective disease prevention and control work.

“From the beginning, there’s been a strong sense among residents that ‘we are all in this together,’ and an acceptance that the tough government measures were necessary to curb the outbreak,” shared global hotelier MGM when Travel Weekly Asia reached out for comments. “These have helped to build a great deal of positive sentiment among the travel trade in Macau.”

On 20 April, Macau’s chief executive Ho Iat Seng announced public policies for the remainder of 2020 – including stepping up economic recovery and reopening the tourism sector. Designed to encourage travel agents and the global community, here are some salient points to note in the chief executive’s Manifesto.


1. Sound policies for a stable economy  

Post-pandemic, infrastructure development will be increased, such as remodelling Taipa Ferry Terminal for Macau International Airport’s expansion. CREDIT: Gettyimages; bingfengwu
Post-pandemic, infrastructure development will be increased, such as remodelling Taipa Ferry Terminal for Macau International Airport’s expansion. CREDIT: Gettyimages; bingfengwu

Always placing the Special Administrative Region’s interests first, the government has since the discovery of COVID-19 already set aside over 50 billion patacas for its people to fight the pandemic; as seen in earlier responses including tax-relief measures, relief funds and regeneration strategies.

To continue safeguarding the SAR while still upholding its growth, the first policy outlined in the chief executive’s manifesto, titled: ‘Forging Ahead Towards New Horizons’, was boosting conditions for post-pandemic economic recovery and maintaining stability.

One of the plans includes increasing infrastructure development. A few public construction projects will be expedited this year, such as the construction of the fourth Macao-Taipa cross-harbour route, and continuing the ongoing Light Rapid Transit system project.

Also, a portion of the existing Taipa Ferry Terminal will be remodelled and integrated into Macau International Airport, as part of expansion works to handle rising visitor arrivals. The airport welcomed 9.6 million passengers in 2019, an increase of 18% from the year before. Upon completion, the new and larger terminal will be able to accommodate up to 2 million passengers annually.

Some hoteliers are also pushing projects ahead as planned – including Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s expansion of Studio City Phase II, and SJM’s (Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, S.A.) Grand Lisboa Palace integrated resort on Cotai with an expected launch in end 2020.

Others such as Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) are using this lull time to prepare for return to business, Mr Buddy Lam, senior VP of Public Relations adding that the Group “will be completely prepared for our first big events and the rebound of tourist arrivals”.


2. United hotel community

Macau’s network of major hoteliers has stepped up their game, taking special care to implement robust preventive measures after reopening, staying in close contact with the SAR’s plans. CREDIT: Sands China Ltd
Macau’s network of major hoteliers has stepped up their game, taking special care to implement robust preventive measures after reopening, staying in close contact with the SAR’s plans. CREDIT: Sands China Ltd

A key support system has also risen amid this pandemic: Macau’s network of six major hoteliers.

Mr. Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd shared: “It’s been our experience that people in Macao and mainland China are strong and resilient and those traits will undoubtedly be needed in the days to come. We will certainly do everything we can to help return things to normal as quickly as possible.”

Echoing the same sentiment, GEG’s Mr Lam explained that “Macau’s coordinated response [has] set the city up for success in suppressing the epidemic and gradually returning to business,” which included government instructions since early 2020 where gaming premises were closed for 15 days in February.

In order for casinos and hotels to reopen, anti-epidemic protocols are strictly enforced. These include:

•    Mandatory face masks and temperature screening for staff and customers
•    Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting premises, especially for heavier traffic areas such as escalator handrails and door knobs
•    Banning food and drinks at gaming tables
•    Opening just 50% of gaming tables with a 2-meter rule and hand sanitisers in place
•    Deep cleaning and changing filters for air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems
•    Deep clean for every hotel room before check in
•    Continuous reminders of personal hygiene, as well as COVID-19 updates to staff
Some hoteliers such as SJM also publicised the government’s disease control campaigns, by posting the messages on their properties’ outdoor screens, website and social media.

“Of course, it hasn’t been easy, and many people and companies are struggling; but the current situation shows that the Macau community can come together to face a challenge,” affirmed Mr Lam.

Also speaking to Travel Weekly Asia about the disruption to economy, Wynn shared how the company has from the start “reassured employees that our first priority has been their safety and wellbeing, implementing suitable health and hygiene protocols to protect staff and our guests”.

In the near future, the hoteliers also agree that social distancing for both staff and guests is likely to continue on for a period of time, where MGM has additionally implemented this rule for MICE activities as well.

“With COVID-19 posing unprecedented challenges to the tourism industry and integrated resort facilities globally, the Macau Chief Executive’s leadership…is exactly what we need in these difficult times,” said Mr Lawrence Ho, Chairman and CEO, Melco Resorts & Entertainment.


3. Next tourism wave

Chief executive Ho Iat Seng hopes to resume travel permits to mainland China, also targeting main source markets such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. CREDIT: Government Information Bureau of the Macao SAR
Chief executive Ho Iat Seng hopes to resume travel permits to mainland China, also targeting main source markets such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. CREDIT: Government Information Bureau of the Macao SAR

Once the COVID-19 crisis stabilises, the government will kickstart various tourism incentive programmes, including potentially resuming the issuance of travel permits between mainland China and Macau, as well as extending individual tourist visa schemes to more mainland cities.

“We will also negotiate with Guangdong Province to loosen the policy of issuing tourist visas to residents of this province for travel to Macau,” added Mr Ho.

Additionally, when circumstances allow, the Macao SAR government plans to resume tourism campaigns in main source markets, especially targeting “neighbouring regions” such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

Internally, several tourist plans have been lined up for Macau’s people too. Calling it “local tourism,” visitors will see an uptick in the number and variety of festive events within the SAR, as well as island hopping to nearby Hengqin – in the hopes of achieving higher overnight stay numbers. Tourism industry operators can also expect practical support from the government, so these sectors “can overcome the difficulties caused by the epidemic” shared Mr Ho.

All six of Macau’s major hoteliers interviewed for this article expressed readiness to welcome travellers in due time, their premises in line with the strictest safety and prevention measures as per SOP.

“When guests are ready, we are ready,” affirms Dr Wilfred Wong, President of Sands China Ltd.

For ongoing updates on how you can regroup clients towards Macau, visit www.macaotourism.gov.mo.

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This article is brought to you by Macao Government Tourism Office.

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