The traditionally busy Chinese New Year Golden Week period is looking more and more like a Silver Week as the first visitor numbers are discouraging at best.
The first two days of the spring festival reported between 8,000 and 9,000 visitors, already an 85 per cent break from the first days of the holiday period last year.
Although the first days of the holiday period tend to see lowe numbers, it is hard to believe the average will improve considerably in the next days to reach the already conservative government estimates of a 16,000 to 20,000 average.
Last year and despite the first case in the city having been reported right before the CNY period started, the SAR still ended the Golden Week with a total of 261,100 visitors arrivals, a number that at the time represented a 78 per cent year-on-year drop but now seems like an arduous high bar to reach.
With the numerous notices by Chinese provincial and state authorities for citizens to avoid embarking on what is normally described as “the largest human migration in the world” this year’s Spring Festival has been subdued at best.
Data from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys earlier this month showed that airline bookings for domestic travel fell by 75.9 per cent compared with the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, with Chinese authorities forecasting some 1.15 billion trips this year, a figure 60 per cent lower than before the pandemic.
Considering the recent community outbreaks in different Chinese cities and provinces and remembering that one of the factors that helped reach the scale of pandemic transmission witnessed last year was the outbreak timing right before last year’s lunar year period, it is more than adequate that precautions are taken.
With package tours and Hong Kong visitors still out of the equation, it would always be hard to match last year’s numbers but first signs are dire at best.
Still, Macau has shown positive signs of a slow gradual economic recovery in recent months.
The three gaming operators that have so far published their final 2020 financial reports have all showed a return to positive operational results.
For better and worse, as the local financial health is intrinsically linked to gaming concessionaires, the fact they are moving out of the red is great news to the local workforce and government finances.
However, what this Silver CNY Week shows us is that until the pandemic is not fully established in the Greater China region and vaccination plans do not manage to cover at least half of the population, we can expect a slow upwards hike back to the top.
The situation will also give more food for thought to local authorities if it still time to put the finger on the trigger of the third round of stimulus policies for local SMEs and workers.
Until then, let’s keep wishing each other Kung Hei Fat Choy and San Tai Gin Hong. After all, as long as we have the latter, the former will always be secondary.