Interview: MGTO and the quest for illegal guides

Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) conducted a total of 1,060 inspections until the end of August to find mainland visitors working as “illegal tour guides.” The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) has several impacts. One of them is the consecutive double-digit monthly increase in visitor arrivals. That’s why, MGTO reveals, a study is being conducted “to help formulate appropriate promotion strategies in accordance with the operation of the HZMB.”

MB November Special Report | The ghost bridge


Overall, what assessment does MGTO carry out of this first year? Will there be a new record of visitors in Macau? What role does the bridge play for this record?
MGTO –
 Aside from being an attraction in its own right, the HZMB equipped Macau with a new international gateway from the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). This landmark infrastructure is helping to create the perception of an easier access to Macau, especially to mid-long-haul markets from the HKIA. At the same time, in terms of regional connectivity, the bridge has become a new option for traveling to Macau for neighboring mainland cities and Hong Kong, bringing the Greater Bay Area cities closer together.
Since its opening, the bridge swiftly became Macau’s second largest port of entry (starting from November 2018), after the Border Gate.
Following the opening of the HZMB, Macau has been marking consecutive double-digit monthly increase in visitor arrivals, with a new record in visitor arrivals expected for this year, which aside from other factors, is largely attributed to the visitor flows generated by the new iconic infrastructure.

Does MGTO still consider that a direct road connection to Hong Kong airport is missing? What has been done in the meantime?
MGTO –
 The HZMB is a major connectivity breakthrough for traveling between Macau and HKIA. With the bridge coming into operation, ancillary infrastructures and services are slated to come into operation as well, in order to make the bridge more accessible to residents and visitors.


7 February 2019, the day

HZMB reinforced one-day tourists, contrary to what MGTO wants to Macau tourism. Do you think this is a perverse effect?
MGTO –
 The novelty factor needs to be taken into account here. The HZMB is an attraction in its own right, luring visitors simply to experience a ride on the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.
With the HZMB now in operation, the authorities and other stakeholders from the three sides are gradually moving into the next stage of leveraging on the bridge to facilitate travel in the region.
MGTO will continue to play its role to promote this new landmark linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau, with different initiatives to encourage travel trade and visitors to experience its usage to visit the city and in multi-destination trips to the Greater Bay Area. In the meantime, in order to better understand visitors’ behavior, a study is being conducted to help formulate appropriate promotion strategies in accordance with the operation of the HZMB. MGTO and the Hong Kong Tourism Board will share and compare the results of a comprehensive analysis on the situation after the bridge came into operation and gain insights into transformation in the composition of visitor source markets and their mode of transport, and their awareness and comments about the bridge, among others.


“A study is being conducted to help formulate appropriate promotion strategies in accordance with the operation of the HZMB. MGTO and Hong Kong Tourism Board will share and compare the results for a comprehensive analysis on the situation”

Does MGTO have the record of the day with most tourists/visitors in Macau? What to do in days like that?
MGTO –
 The current record of most visitors to Macau was reached on 7 February 2019 (third day of Chinese New Year holidays), with 226,326 visitor arrivals.
As a tourism city, the work to welcome visitors during peak periods involves the united efforts of all stakeholders to help divert the flow of visitors and enhance the destination’s carrying capacity. Macau has done a lot of effort upstream in order to attract visitors to come during different times of the year and to visit different parts of the city, with new events, such as the six-month long Art Macau, inaugurated this June, along with smart tourism tools for visitors to monitor the flow in several hot spots, while more transport infrastructure, namely the Light Rail Transit (Taipa Line) System, and new tourism products, such as the Grand Prix Museum, slated to open this year.
In the meantime, the SAR Government is vigorously looking into different possible solutions to strike a balance between the quality of residents’ life and tourism industry development.


“Following the opening of the HZMB, Macau has been marking consecutive double-digit monthly increase in visitor arrivals, with a new record in visitor arrivals expected for this year”


“Macau welcomes neighbor cities’ residents to use the different travel options”

Unlicensed tour operators are still a problem? What has been done in those months?
MGTO –
 We have been following up on the issue after this Office received reports of “illegal tour guides” operating in Macau after the HZMB inauguration. During the inspections conducted on site targeting the issue, this Office detected some suspected irregular cases. However, the majority were groups of people coming together to travel, following the global trend of individual self-arranged travel, with among them some serving as group leaders, which did not equal to working as “illegal tour guides.”
Since the opening of the HZMB on 24 October 2018 until 31 August 2019, MGTO received reports referring to 18 cases of mainland visitors working as “illegal tour guides.” Acting on the reports, a total of 1,060 inspections (including joint inspections with the Public Security Police Force and the Labour Affairs Bureau) have been conducted. The target of the inspections was to establish if among the groups of visitors there were individuals acting as tour guides, with inspections made at the main entrance gates in Macau (Border Gate, HZMB, and relevant public transportation stands), along with the itineraries of such groups as pointed out by the complainers, including the resort hotels in Cotai, Ruins of St Paul’s to Senado Square or Praça Ferreira do Amaral bus hub.
Aside from the ongoing inspections, MGTO has also been disseminating educational advertisements at the main entrance check points, advising visitors not to engage with unlicensed tour guides and alerting of the fine involved for acting as an “illegal tour guide.” To date, MGTO has taken official statements against two cases of allegedly illegal tour guides and is currently processing the cases under sanction procedures.

Does MGTO find it worrying that there are residents of Zhuhai who use Macau just because it is easier to take the boat to Hong Kong?
MGTO –
 As an open city, Macau welcomes neighbor cities’ residents to use the different travel options available here, especially considering that many are repeat visitors. In the meantime, MGTO will continue to reach out to the different profile of visitors, including those en route to other destinations, to showcase what Macau has to offer.