The decline in the number of Chinese visitors to Macau — the former Portuguese enclave’s lifeblood — is causing angst in the city whose economy relies heavily on its neighbor for gamblers, tourists and shoppers.
Chinese arrivals to Macau are back to levels last seen in 2012. The number of visitors from the mainland fell 10 percent year on year to 1.4 million in June, marking the fourth straight monthly decline and the second-worst month since 2009.
Several factors may be at play, including the recently-adopted anti-extravagance mindset of high-stakes gamblers, the slowdown in China’s economy and the dearth of new attractions.
Even the opening of Galaxy’s Phase 2-Broadway resort at the end of May failed to spark enough incremental interest to attract more visitors in June.
Public outcry from local residents about Macau being overrun by Chinese tourists may have also put off mainland travelers, who are increasingly exploring other destinations such as Japan and South Korea.
Looking ahead, Melco Crown’s Studio City project may be Macau’s next catalyst for improvement. Set to open later this year, the new casino resort will expand on Cotai’s non-gaming mass market attractions to lure more visitors.
The Macanese government has also eased hurdles — such as China-entry regulations — that may be a deterrent for Chinese visitors.
For the time being, authorities have also been less strict than anticipated in expanding the casino-floor smoking ban, introduced in October 2014.
The views expressed in this article are those of Tim Craighead, director of Asian research and senior gaming analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
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