Special Report – The future is WCTL, but also GBA

China wants Macau to be the World Center of Tourism and Leisure  (WCTL) in the context of the Great Bay Area. The future, at least in terms of connectivity, is no longer in our hands.

MB November 2020 Special Report | Getting in and out

“To meet the international or regional travel demand, Macau should integrate deeper into the regional network and international hubs within the region, to enhance its connectivity of all modes and levels of services reaching Macau,” forecasts Ku Weng Keong. “Strategically, Macau should diversify the ways visitors access it. The diversification should work in hand with the efforts in market diversification.”

The words of the Chairman of Council of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Macau epitomize what seem to be the main lines that Macau must travel to become the Great Bay Area (GBA) World Center of Tourism and Leisure (WCTL).

To achieve this goal, Professor Ku understands that a growing number of tourists will take the trains to Zhuhai Railway Station or Hengqin Railway Station through the rail network in China for visiting Macau. “Together with the Qingmao checkpoint which will be opened soon, it is believed that this will make it easier for tourists to reach Macau, which is a key component of developing Macau into the TCTL of the GBA.”

“To meet the international or regional travel demand, Macau should integrate deeper into the regional network and international hubs within the region” – Ku Weng Keong

Another expert, Jason Ni, former Professor, City University of Hong Kong and Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, also puts Macau’s emphasis on a more global context: “Macau’s land transportation to GBA is getting more and more sophisticated. By involving itself with the GBA network, Macau can take advantage for its development as a WCTL,” he explains to Macau Business.

And although Mr. Ni has no doubt that “GBA’s mobility network definitely helps Macau,” he thinks this is not the solution for all the problems: among other mobility priorities, “it is suggested that Macau can develop international access – starting from short-haul (e.g., South-East Asia) to long-haul (e.g., USA, Europe).”

Recommendations like this one, however, run into strategic problems.

Macau Airport Company (CAM) reminds Macau Business the tourists from Southeast Asia by air has recorded over 70 per cent increment since 2015, from 2.2 million in 2015 to 3.8 million in 2019. “These are efforts CAM has done on marketing to introduce more airlines to fly to Macau and bring about passengers in their market, which in other words is regarded as a contribution to Macau as a WCTL. However, there is limitation on the scale of Macau-based airline and small scale of local passenger market that might restrict the expansion.”

“Accessibility is no doubt an indispensable part for Macau to develop as WCTL,” states MGTO. “Provision of better transport connectivity and convenience to visitors is therefore among the strategies and action plans of the Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan, and will certainly be included in the revision already in course of the master plan.”

However, MGTO underlines to our readers, “objectives, strategies and action plans proposed by the Macau Tourism Industry Development Master Plan need to be understood within the framework of broader development plans for the city, namely the Five-Year Development Plan of the Macau SAR, among others. In addition to the fact that the implementation of such plans requires high level government decisions, cross-sector and inter-department work, involving the whole city.”

One thing on which everyone agrees: “the development of Macau’s accessibility, on the way to transform the city into a WCTL, must be understood in the context of growing regional cooperation and integration” (MGTO).

“Connectivity with the world is a key support to the establishment of Macau as ‘one centre, one platform, one base’,” sums up the Vice Chairman of the Board, Greater Bay Area Aviation Exchange Association. “The vision of Macau’s aviation industry should be to facilitate Macau to become a WCTL, to be a trading platform that can provide business persons with convenient and fast transportation, and to establish itself as a multi-culture base via which tourists are able to gain deeper experiences in Chinese culture,” concludes Daniel Tang to Macau Business.

The mobility needs of the society

“The government should not only focus on meeting the transportation needs of tourists just for becoming a WCTL, but also the mobility needs of the society,” underlines Ku Weng Keong. “More importantly, apart from investing in transportation infrastructure, the government should first pay attention to the daily travel needs of the local residents, accumulate and learn from the data, and do a good job in traffic management, as well as control the growth of private vehicles.”

The Chairman of Council of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Macau leaves some suggestions about the public transit system: they should continuously improve the bus service, close the gap between the LRT and bus services in terms of scheduling, stops and stations, and smoothen the transfers. Other measures can benefit the transportation in Macau, such as optimizing the road network, promoting green travel, and introducing new types of transportation (such as ferries, cable cars, etc.). 

“Among them, I think walking is definitely a viable commuting model in Macau since we live in a tiny and high compact city. However, in the old urban areas, the environment is not friendly for pedestrians. It does need to be improved, such as expanding walkways, separating pedestrians and vehicles, and providing shade no matter in green or canopy,” Ku Weng Keong said.

Is the future low-cost?

“Macau is the first region to bring in low-cost carrier in area China,” state the authors of research paper The Positive Impact of Macau Low-cost Carriers to Enhance Regional Tourism Economy.

“The success of low-cost carriers in Macau, and a considerable market share in Asian countries today, fully verified the successful strategy of Low Cost Carrier development. The strong policy support from mainland China provides a stable and powerful environment for the civil aviation industry in Macau, coupled with Macau’s unique geographical location, making low cost airlines grow with Macau as a WCTL positioning together, bearing and attracts tourists of worldwide,” adds the team of authors led by Xin Wang, Faculty of International Tourism and Management, City University of Macau.

“Low-cost carriers are a great power generator for Macau’s diversify economy development,” the research paper reads.

Read more | Special Report – Will the bridge kill the ferry?