As Hong Kong’s tourism and hospitality sector grapples with business slowdown, it can only watch with envy a visitor rush in Macau for the Lunar New Year holidays.
While hotels here are struggling to fill their rooms, Macau will have a full house next week.
That is because Chinese New Year is the time when many mainlanders flock to the casino tables to see if Lady Luck will smile on them.
Gambling halls will be especially packed on Feb. 10, the third day of the Year of Monkey as that day is not considered to be auspicious for home visits but might be a good time to rob the casinos.
I was there once on the third day of Lunar New Year, and witnessed first-hand the mad scramble.
On that day, I saw three ferries depart from Hong Kong within a 15-minute span and head for Macau. There was huge congestion everywhere in the gambling enclave and a lot of harried people.
And getting return tickets at your chosen time was not easy, leading to all sorts of problems.
After that experience, I swore I will go anywhere but Macau over the Chinese New Year.
It’s not just the crowds; everything is also super expensive in the city during the holiday period.
A survey shows that the average daily hotel room price over a five-day period after the third day of Chinese New Year is above HK$4,000, or about two to four times that in the non-peak period.
You can consider yourself lucky if you are able to get a room for less than HK$2,000 in the first two days of the Lunar New Year in Macau peninsula.
Elsewhere, Sands Cotai Central is quoting HK$4,800 per night for a two-bed room on the third day of Lunar New Year. And an executive suite at Four Seasons will set you back by over HK$12,000!
Among others, four new properties – Macau Studio City, Broadway, Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott — have put up peak rates for the period. Macau Studio City, for instance, is charging HK$7,200 per night.
They, together with a number of newly opened hotels last year, are providing more than 4,300 rooms, adding to the total of 32,000 available rooms in Macau.
The bookings rush is glad tidings for Macau especially since it is happening despite a stock market rout in Hong Kong and China in January.
While the rates now are below the peak seen in 2014, when Macau hotel rooms were sold for an average of HK$6,000 per night, they are still pretty elevated.
The upbeat picture also becomes evident as analysts have predicted that casino revenues in the city may reverse a 20-month downtrend in February.
Now, don’t we wish that we’ll have something to celebrate in Hong Kong too?
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