40 million

In seven years MGTO anticipates the arrival of 40 million tourists, but this is not a goal. Just an inevitability. Precautions are required, say experts.

At the end of last year, public opinion in Macau was aghast at forecasts by the Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan of 40 million visitors in 2025, an estimate based upon past statistics. 

If 2017 closed with 32.6 million, that means that every year during the next seven years at least another million visitors will make their way to the city. 

Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) explained to Macau Business that “It is important to understand that the visitor arrivals figures stated in the Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan is a forecast of the future tourism situation in Macau, not a target to be attained by the tourism industry . . . The figures are not targets to be pursued by the Macao SAR Government.” 

No initiative exists, however, to halt or delay the number in question, thus it can be deduced that give or take a year Macau will have those 40 million tourists. 

Can the MSAR support almost eight million more than those who already visit Macau at this time? 

“The tourism carrying capacity is a dynamic concept that constantly changes with the number of visitor arrivals and their travel behaviour, as well as the supply and demand of tourism infrastructure and products. With the successive completion of large-scale hotels in Macau, as well as the new infrastructure, light rail transit and new urban areas to be completed in the near future, carrying capacity will be further improved,” responds MGTO. 

“With the successive completion of large-scale hotels in Macau, as well as the new infrastructure, light rail transit and new urban areas to be completed in the near future, carrying capacity will be further improved” – MGTO 

Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, Ms Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes

Meanwhile, the Master Plan proposes various strategies to manage tourism capacity such as designing key performance indicators for monitoring Macau’s tourism carrying capacity; implementing site management to address the overcrowding problems at key tourist attractions; and implementing policies for improving transportation, etc. 

Making it possible for Macau residents to co-exist with these 40 million tourists in the limited space available is not an easy task to achieve. Maybe even impossible if we take into account what happens with at least 7.5 million. 

“One of the major concerns of Macau at the moment is the lack of space and the limitation of receiving crowds of tourists, especially during festive seasons. Macau needs long-term structures, with the capacity to accommodate so many tourists in a space that is considered to be small,” says António Monteiro, a local tourist researcher and Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator of the International Institute of Macau. “A logistics that is a response of effectiveness to the planned plan, thus leaving an impression of recognition worldwide and thus offering a true leisure centre experience, where tourists can enjoy Macau and want to repeat the experience.” 

Mr. Monteiro also argues that “it is urgent to send tourists to different tourist attractions, without concentrating solely on the downtown area – avoiding scenarios such as is usual on Avenida Almeida Ribeiro or Rua da Palha – leaving the challenge of tourism here to work more on the tourist diversity of the territory.”  

Traffic is another relevant concern, he says, “with road accesses having to be widened in the structures, creating traffic accesses or in the construction of more parking lots, since there are no plans to reduce vehicles on the road. The provision and improvement of public transport services should be Macau’s top priority for raising its brand as a travel destination.” 

Mr. Monteiro, who has published several papers on these matters in the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau magazine, understands that “there is an urgent need for further training in the field of public transport, with a focus on learning foreign languages ​​(English, especially in taxis) in addition to the official languages as well as the urgent completion of the light rail system in Macau, another transportation alternative for tourists.” 

“Finally,” adds Monteiro “there should be effective communication between government departments and the tourism industry to achieve this objective set out in the Plan presented by the Tourism Services, working to alleviate congestion in the current borders of tourist access, through the creation of other access points efficient and capable of receiving 40 million or more visitors in the future, as already indicated during the presentation of the plan.” 

Smart tourism 

“In the Macau SAR Government’s pursuit of Smart City development, smart tourism is an important component with Macau’s identity as a tourist city,” states MGTO. “The use of smart technology can help strengthen the management of tourism carrying capacity, such as providing crowd information to visitors via different communication channels including mobile applications, social media platforms and more, thus enabling visitors to enjoy a better travel experience.” 

António Monteiro agrees: “The technological area will be central to tourism in this century, betting on the installation of digital equipment throughout the city, with indications of locations and itineraries (in synchronisation with mobile applications), facilitating tourist access to tourists.” 

This is why the government has started discussions with Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group on the city’s smart tourism development. The city’s government signed a Framework Agreement for Strategic Co-operation in the Area of Building an Intelligent City last year, with smart tourism one of the first initiatives to kick-start the city’s development in the area in the coming five years.