No-one, at this juncture, dare predict what the impact on tourism of the establishment and operation of the Guangdong – Hong Kong – Macau Bay Area, or, as mentioned in the English.gov.cn website of the State Council, “also known as the Greater Bay Area”, will be. Exactly one year ago, the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong – Hong Kong – Macau Co-operation in the Development of the Bay Area was signed.
And no-one can imagine what it will be; not only because it is a recent project but also because it is already an area covered by the Individual Visa Scheme, thus any forecast of the number of tourists can be deficient or exaggerated.
No wonder, therefore, that when Macau Business asked MGTO how they anticipate this impact, the response was cautious, volunteering: “The national strategy of formulation of the ‘Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area’ will deepen the co-operation between Macau and regional cities, speeding up the integration of industries and fostering economic growth in the Bay Area.”
The local Tourism Office prefers an optimistic but vague formulation of this impact: “By complementing tourism resources and promoting regional tourism brands, especially on multi-destination itineraries, cities of the Bay Area can jointly develop regional tourism products to attract Mainland China and overseas tourist markets.”
“In spite of Macau’s various competitive advantages, especially in terms of financial advantage, heritage wealth, history and culture, there are points to be duly considered to improve in the future” – António Monteiro
In the study Regional Tourism Collaboration in the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong Professor Cathy Hsu warns: “Developing tourism without regional co-ordination and collaboration could result in overcapacity and cutthroat competition between Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai (HMZ) and dampen the healthy growth of tourism in the region.”
To conclude, the research released in 2009 by Professor Hsu argues that “it is highly necessary for HMZ to co-operate in tourism development,” remembering that “via co-operation, HMZ will be able to provide visitors with a rich variety of tourism experiences cost-and-time-efficient, making them highly competitive as an integrated destination in Asia and in the world.”
This researcher from Hong Kong Polytechnic University cites, in particular, the issue of the MSAR: “Macau’s gaming boom is presenting good opportunities for boosting tourism in the entire HMZ region, but it has also brought in conflicts and problems among the three, with destination positioning and manpower the most imminent issues. Developing tourism without considering its impact on neighbours will increase substitution and lower compatibility and complementariness, leading to cutthroat competition and endangering the healthy tourism development in the region. Without sincere co-operation among the three, it will be impossible to resolve these conflicts and problems.”
The heads of the three regions seem to have read with interest the conclusions of this study, creating the Tourism Federation of Cities in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Bay Area at the end of last year, joining the tourism bodies of nine cities in Guangdong Province.
However, to face the challenges posed by the creation of the Greater Bay Area, Macau also has to address internal issues.
This is the opinion of local tourism researcher António Monteiro, Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator of the International Institute of Macau (IIM), who told Macau Business: “in spite of Macau’s various competitive advantages, especially in terms of financial advantage, heritage wealth, history and culture, there are points to be duly considered to improve in the future.”
Mr. Monteiro offers some examples: “Young talent will eventually need to invest more in their training, achieving the competitiveness necessary to reach the level of experience in the field of business in relation to the regions near Macau . . . Society will tend to become less conservative and bet on the recruitment of professionals from abroad.”
In his opinion, this will require long term measures for Macau and a wider vision. In today’s digital era – witness, for example, the introduction of sales of online services in Macau, with a greater opening of services and banking procedures – he believes that such initiatives must be pursued “without losing a certain control in a gambling city.”
He also mentions the important role of the Macau Forum “to narrow and extend co-operation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries; not only betting on Macau as a commercial warehouse but also as a cultural warehouse, making the territory a ‘cultural entrepreneurship,’ diversifying with the sustainability of the local economy” amid other suggestions.
In this context, the recent proposal made by legislator Si Ka Lon, who suggested the creation of a reserve for international tourism, should also be highlighted.
Integrated highway, waterway and rail system
The Planning Study on the Co-ordinated Development of the Great Pearl River Delta Township, released in 2009, proposed Macau focus on an integrated highway, waterway and rail system.
A highway system, connecting Macau to Zhuhai and Guangdong, can go further to Changde in Hunan. Thus, the highway system would be well developed in the Pearl River Delta (or Greater Bay Area).
“With that system,” says Dr. Jason Ni, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Architecture and Civil Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, “the ‘one-hour daily life circle within the PRD township (Macau included) can be achieved.”
Regarding water transportation, he says, “it is a major travel mode for people entering or leaving Macau so far. However, not until the water boundary was confirmed in 2014 could the Macau Government plan its water transportation. Fortunately, Macau has its own water boundary now, and the government now spends a lot effort in developing the waterfront (also water transportation).”
As for the railway system – “the most lacking infrastructure in Macau” – the Light Rail Transit has been delayed since 2015. “Infrastructure-wise, Macau doesn’t have good external linkage to the regional railway system (e.g.) inter-city rail to Guangzhou, yet,” Ni concludes.