Mainland visitors to Macau this way

The land border with Gongbei has long been saturated. There are plans to decongest it with new entry points. But attention to internal traffic is first necessary . . .

When the president of the Macau Gaming Equipment Manufacturers Association was asked what the main problem facing the local MICE industry was Jay Chun had no qualms in answering: “Mainland access is not easy, particularly for senior officials to travel to Macau. I think this is a big problem.” 

There is, at least, a consensus on the need for more entry points to Macau. In a recent interview with Portuguese-language journal JTM, University of Macau Professor Glenn McCartney said: “Due to brand image, location and history, 65% of our tourism traffic is from Mainland China. We are not an international destination.” 

Therefore, understands this scholar, it is necessary to change the situation regarding border crossings, giving two examples: people who are in line for one or two hours and the traffic congestion at these points.  

“There is a question of the quality of service at certain customer contact points, caused by problems and restrictions on the workforce,” he says, “and that we hear many complaints about it in the industry.” 

Jason Ni, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Architecture and Civil Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, is an expert on the subject – and author of Mega Infrastructure Developments in Macao in Light of Increasing Tourism and Regional Mobility: A review, published last year.  

To Macau Business he explains: “The second border gate (i.e.) Canal Dos Patos, 800m distant from Gongbei, is necessary. It is because the Zhuhai and Macau governments have a consensus to connect the second border gate to Zhuhai Light Rail, giving much more convenience for both Zhuhai and Macau residents. Besides, the current Gongbei border is already reaching its capacity limit – in the past lunar new year period a total of 2.15 million people passed through the Gongbei border.” 

Professor Jason Ni speaks of the other new entry points of Macau, in addition to the second border gate, sending a message to local authorities: “After all, those new entry points should play a critical role in ‘getting people to’ Macau [thus] fulfilling MGTO’s estimate of 40 million visitors/year in 2025. However, government has less concern about ‘getting people around’ within Macau. The internal circulation of traffic is getting more and more serious. When Macau considers adding another new entry point the internal impact on traffic should also be considered.” 

“Government has less concern about ‘getting people around’ within Macau. The internal circulation of traffic is getting more and more serious. When Macau considers adding another new entry point the internal traffic impact should also be considered” – Jason Ni 

The government, however, does have plans to rectify the situation. Perhaps not immediately but it is possible to predict that probably in three years time today’s picture will be very different.  

“According to the Tourism Master Plan, with the new border points available (Taipa Ferry Terminal, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Guangdong-Macau New Channel, Cotai Checkpoint and Macau International Airport expansion) and further improved, the distribution of visitor arrivals at each major border is projected to be more even,” Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) told Macau Business. 

To the various projects described above we must add one more: non-resident workers who live outside Macau and commute to Macau daily “is also a cause for the congestion at border checkpoints. Therefore, the Master Plan proposes to shift border crossings to the Cotai Checkpoint after the intercity railway to the Hengqin Border is completed, so as to relieve pressure on other border points.” 

The Bridge 

“The opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) is expected to enhance the transportation network of the region while providing more convenience to connect Macau with Hong Kong International Airport. The bridge will provide a more convenient connection for long haul tourists to visit Macau,” MGTO told Macau Business. “Moreover, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge itself is a world-class infrastructure, which serves as a tourist product for attracting visitors to the Bay Area.” 

“Obviously, the HZMB will bring more traffic to Macau,” says Professor Jason Ni. “However, the bridge usage growth rate/curve cannot be accurately modelled unless we have clear data on user/traveller behaviour.” 

A certainty though: “Of course, the HZMB will affect tourists going to Macau by ferry,” but as Professor Ni also underlines, “the Macau Marine and Water Bureau (DSAMA) explained that the impact depends upon traffic conditions and the management policy of the bridge such as the toll rate, the management of cross-boundary vehicles, and the supporting facilities like shuttle buses.”  

In addition, he does the maths: “Due to the capacity of one ferry equalling ten buses, also the departure interval is 15 minutes (non-peak); it is believed that there will still be tourists choosing ferries to go to Macau. On the other hand, since the cross-bridge coach service has now been tendered to Ms. Pansy Ho (who also owns TurboJet), a reasonable assumption is that high cost (e.g.) midnight, ferry services will be limited, and substituted by (midnight) cross-bridge coach.” 

Visitor Arrivals by Mode of Transport during 2017 

   Visitor Arrivals  % of Total Visitors  % Change 
Land  18,629,788  57.1%  +4.9% 
Border Gate  16,098,629  49.4%  +4.0% 
Checkpoint of Cotai  2,515,217  7.7%  +11.1% 
Trans-Border Industrial Park  15,942  0.05%  -14.7% 
Sea   11,236,083  34.5%  +4.3% 
Outer Harbour  6,888,952  21.1%  +5.4% 
*Inner Harbour  N/A  N/A  N/A 
Ferry Terminal in Taipa  4,347,131  13.3%  +2.8% 
Air  2,744,635  8.4%  +13.7% 
Macao International Airport  2,731,605  8.4%  +13.6% 
Heliport of Outer Harbour  13,030  0.04%  +51.2% 

 *Inner Harbour was temporarily closed from 17 January 2016

Despite the majority of visitors arrived Macau by land, there was an increasing trend of arrivals by air over the past few years. In 2017, visitor arrivals by air accounted for 2,744,635, an increase of 13.7% over the previous year.   

  Visitor Arrivals by Air  % of Total Visitors 
2015  2,089,774 (+1.7%)  6.8% 
2016  2,413,317 (+15.5%)  7.8% 
2017  2,744,635 (+13.7%)  8.4%