Macau must be heaven for mainland tourists, while Hong Kong is shunned.
Most, if not all, of the 27,000 hotel rooms of the six licensed casino operators in the former Portuguese enclave have been fully booked a week ahead of the Lunar New Year, and until the sixth day of the Year of the Metal Rat.
Nothing surprising there since Lunar New Year is a traditional boom period for Macau as tourists from across the border swarm the special administrative region to gamble in the hope of making money for an auspicious start to the new year.
“People will come – no problem,” SJM Holdings chief executive Ambrose So Shu-fai said. “But we will know only later if it means more profits for us.”
At this time of the year, I could recall, Turbojet used to dispatch high-speed ferries from Hong Kong to Macau every five minutes during peak hours, but the service may no longer be as busy this year because of the alternative route offered by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
Hong Kong presents a stark difference as the civil unrest, now in its eighth month, continues to deter mainlanders from spending their holiday here. Just yesterday, clashes broke out again between police and protesters in Central and Mong Kok.
The city’s tourism and retail sectors are reeling from all the turmoil. In the first two weeks of the year, only 148 tour groups arrived in the city from the mainland, down 97 percent from 4,300 in the same period last year, according to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
In the wake of the plunge in tourist numbers, and also due to security concerns, officials have canceled the fireworks display on the second day of the Lunar New Year.
As mainland arrivals have been reduced to a trickle, many four-star hotels in Hong Kong are offering rates that are cheaper than those in other cities in the Greater Bay Area such as Zhongshan and even Foshan.
On the other hand, some hotels in Macau are charging more than HK$4,000 a night, almost unchanged from last year but much more expensive than the current rates of Peninsula and Shangri-la hotels.
The crowds flowing into Macau also include a lot of Hongkongers, but of course. But I’m sure many Macanese are also coming to our city to stay away from the mainlanders who have invaded their town, and also to take advantage of the bargain rates.
Also quite likely, Hong Kong will be free from traffic congestion next week as more people opt to spend their holiday elsewhere.
A survey of local travel agencies showed that favorite outbound tours are not having price hikes, except in Japan, where many Hongkongers are hoping to experience a snowy winter.
And we hope we all have a peaceful Year of the Rat!
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