Hong Kong losing to Macau in pace of recovery

November 09, 2023 11:50
Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong is stuck. But Macau is strong.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the economy will grow by over 3 per cent this year, lower than his previous forecast of between four and five per cent.

That was a bit embarrassing to the host of Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit yesterday for its second instalment after it proclaimed “Hong Kong is back” just a year ago.

In fact, Hong Kong lags behind China, which stands to grow 5.4 per cent this year, due to a drop in exports and a weaker-than-expected visitor arrivals.

In terms of attracting mainland tourists, Hong Kong also seemed to lose out to Macao. According to a local paper, Macao received a total of 277,500 visitors in the first three days of the Golden Week in October, or about 70 per cent of the pre-pandemic level.

That compared to 609,000 visitors to Hong Kong in the first four days of the long holiday last month, but it was only about 60 per cent before the pandemic.

Despite Macao being the world’s largest casino city, it is only three per cent the size Hong Kong, yet it is zooming much closer to Hong Kong in terms of visitors.

According to a big data report on outbound tourism by the China Tourism Academy, almost half of the 40.37 million outbound mainland tourists in the first half picked Macau as the trip destination.

I happened to drop by Macao twice in the last three weeks and came back with the same impression that it is indeed a vibrant city.

Particularly Macao is looking for talents and mega event programs to develop itself into a leisure and entertainment centre after the government required the casino players to invest some HK$100 billion in the next decade to develop non-gaming businesses.

That explains why there are increasingly more concerts and exhibitions in Macao. One casino player told me they would have concerts every week till year-end.

Less than a year since China’s re-opening, Hong Kong seemed to lose out in the race among its Greater Bay Area neighbours in economic recovery. We certainly hope we would not need to wait for the third summit to map out our rejuvenation plan.

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EJ Insight writer