Citizens wearing masks walk on a street in Hong Kong, south China, April 2, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

HK-Macau travel bubble would be “huge” but not essential – Melco CEO

Melco Resorts Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Ho, stated that the opening of a Hong Kong-Macau travel bubble would be “huge” for the group but mainland China remains the most important market for the SAR.

“It would be great if it happened because Hong Kong traditionally has been 20-25 per cent of our business in Macau. And similar to Southern China, that business is always a really, really good one, but as I mentioned […] the most important market for Macau is always going to be China,’ Ho stated in the group’s first-quarter results conference call.

Yesterday Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that she discussed the establishment of a possible travel bubble between the two SARs with Macau SAR Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng during the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan.

Currently, Hong Kong arrivals are required to complete a 14-day quarantine both in Mainland China and Macau.

However, so far local authorities have denied any negotiations, having previously indicated Hong Kong would have to complete at least 14 consecutive days without new Covid-19 cases for such an arrangement to be considered.

“China has a zero-tolerance policy with regards to Covid-19 cases. So I think Macau would have to balance the Hong Kong travel corridor with not jeopardizing what they have with China right now […] I think the worst of the COVID outbreak in Hong Kong, the fourth wave or fifth wave or whatever they call that is relatively under control now. So that would be a huge thing for us,” Ho noted.

In the first quarter of 2021, Melco reported a groupwide Property EBITDA of approximately US$30 million, a 44 per cent drop from the previous quarter, while net losses also expandedto US$162.8 million.

The Melco CEO even noted that one of the group’s “bright spots” during the first quarter has been retail mainly due to Hong Kong being out of the equation for several Chines tourists who would normally visit both SARs.

“[Retail] is probably at close to 2019 level. It’s probably going to be above 2019 levels very soon. And so, you’re seeing some of that customer mix before where they used to get Hong Kong to go shopping and buy goods, they’re doing that in Macau as well,” Ho added.