SAR will likely have to wait for higher vaccination coverage for central Gov’t to ease tourism travel requirements – Legislators

Macau will likely have to wait until more than half of the population is vaccinated and for the ‘two sessions’ in March for travel procedures for mainland tourists to be eased by the Chinese central government, legislators and business representatives told Macau News Agency.

From September 23, 2020 China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) exit visa system was fully reinstated for mainland residents wishing to visit Macau as independent travellers, however, tourists are not yet allowed to apply online for the IVS and package tour visas – a crucial segment of the local visitor segment – not yet reinstated.

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will take place on March 4 with the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) the following day, with local legislators who regularly attend the ‘two sessions’ as members, hoping the SAR will be able to make a case for easing requirements that could help recover the local economy during the main political event in the country.

“This is something we are concerned about and we hope to be able to express our views to the central government and hopefully they can simplify visa procedures and that the time of visitors stay in Macau will be a bit longer, with a better frequency. We will make efforts to demonstrate the important steps that could really help Macau in the short run,” legislator and NPC member, Jose Chui Sai Peng stated today at the Legislative Assembly Media Spring Luncheon.

Legislator Jose Chui sai Peng

Macau finished 2020 with 5.9 million visitors – a far cry from the record 40 million reported in the previous year – and despite a small recovery in the Christmas and NYE period, a resurgence in local cases in the mainland in the first months of 2021 led to record low visitor numbers in this year’s Chinese New Year period.

Less than 100,000 people travelled to the city between February 11 to 17, about 12,945 on average per day.

“After the ‘two sessions’ in Beijing, I expect more favourable policies will be announced so as to allow an increase of tourists to Macau. In 2019 there were around 100,000 people visiting Macau per day, with only about 20 per cent reported this year, very low numbers. We have more capacity to entertain more tourists and I think the central government understands this,” legislator and Professor at the University of Macau Department of Integrated Resort and Tourism Management.

Priority group vaccination initiated on February 9 and for general population vaccination on February 21, with some 9,284 people already been inoculated and some 25,000 people registered for vaccination, just 1.5 per cent of the local population.

The legislator and researcher noted that more and more people were expected to enrol in the vaccination plan, especially after the first BioNTech doses arrive since local authorities this week decided to people over 60 will not be allowed to take the Sinopharm vaccine.

Until now, only Sinopharm vaccine doses from an initial 100,000 batch developed by China National Biotech Group have been available to residents, however health authorities have indicated that people over 60 will no longer be allowed to be vaccinated with this type of vaccine.

The first doses of the BioNTech vaccine supplied by Fosun – which can be provided to residents over 60 – were expected to arrive in Macau by the end of this week from Germany via Hong Kong, with vaccination to start next week.

“They are the group that is much eager to get the vaccine. we need at least half of the population to be inoculated. In public health issues if two-thirds of the population can achieve group immunity. When that is reached Macau will be quite safe and from the perspective of the central government they will be happier and more willing to let more Chinese visitors travel to Macau,” Fong told MNA.

With the VIP market greatly impacted by harder visa procedures and stricghter regulatory oversight by the Chinse government, the gaming expert believes there seems to be a transition in focus by the local market from VIP to mass and premium mass.

“I think the market has suffered a structural change already, if this is the final picture it is hard to say. We’re probably in the middle of the road and some progression to premium mass can be foreseen,” Fong noted.

“Mainland has changed the criminal law and tried to ban the organised tours for gambling, so not just junkets but gaming operators have tried to adapt and adjust their market strategies”.

China’s National People’s Congress has passed an amendment to its criminal law that will, from March 1 to create a new crime against cross-border casinos found to be organizing or soliciting Chinese citizens to gamble and increase penalties for those found guilty of serious breaches

Meanwhile, legislator and United Association of Food and Beverage Merchants of Macao President, Chan Chak Mo, expressed that there is no doubt the current situation is dire for local F&B businesses and also bet chips on a successful vaccination roll-out that could assure Beijing Macau is a safe destination for tourists

“Everybody is betting on the vaccine. If everyone gets inoculated it can turn things around. We always welcome Beijing’s policy towards Macau, if it’s more liberal and they could let more people in it would help our community a lot of course.

Legislator Chan Chak Mo

With some legislators calling for authorities to advance with a third round of financial support measures to consumers or local SMEs until an improvement is reported in visitation, Fong noted that in any case, usually, the real effects of such measures are only perceptible after a few months.

“It takes maybe two to three months to assess the effects or carry out the administrative procedures,” he noted.

For the researcher, it is more important to assure that local businesses regain their main source of income, outside visitors, than to provide capital to the market via the government’s pockets.

“The Macau government is not looking at the gross gaming revenue but SMEs, since local SMEs in2019 could serve over 40 million tourists, a number that is only at 20 per cent. that is a major issue”.

The Macau SAR government advanced with several financial measures to ease the economic impact of the pandemic, including two rounds of a consumption subsidy
scheme to Macau residents – permanent and non-permanent – where each resident was entitled to register for an e-consumer card of MOP8,000.

Subsidies for individual and self-employed professionals, including a subsidy ranging from MOP15,000 to MOP200,000 to professionals under professional tax group 2 and a one-off subsidy ranging from MOP15,000 to MOP200,000 for companies, depending on the number of employees hired.

Meanwhile, legislator Wang Sai Man an indirectly elected legislator for the industrial, commercial and financial sector, only indicated that the local government “should be well prepared to launch financial measures when necessary”

“The economic situation at the moment is still low so if the population will be very pleased if the government launches new measures,” he stated.