Since the number of visitor arrivals traveling by sea fell 35.2 per cent year-on-year in the first half of this year, this has to have inevitable consequences on the number of boat trips, but the ferry still has some advantages over the bus.
MB November Special Report | The ghost bridge
One has to go back to December 2008 to find ferry movement to and from Macau as small as in June this year.
This month – latest data available at the time of writing – there were 9,151 boat movements at local passenger terminals, compared with 9,146 11 years ago!
As you can see in the table published in this text, since the bridge opened that the movement has been lowering.
The last month of strong movement was December 2018, already with the bridge, but still with values (11,049) below October or August last year.
If 3 million visitors came to Macau from the bridge in the first six months of this year, it is perfectly natural that a significant proportion will be at the expense of sea transportation – people who once arrived in Macau by boat and now come mainly by bus.
An inevitable decrease – at least for those in charge of Shun Tak, who always said they would not reduce services.
One year ago, Pansy Ho indicated that Shun Tak would not reduce the ferry services, while collaborating with the other shareholders on how to better expand their coach services (Pansy Ho is part of a consortium that runs the HZMB Shuttle Bus).
The CEO of Shun Tak Holdings stated that she does not believe that travellers would now consider bus services to be that much more convenient a method than ferry services to travel between the SARs: “Absolutely no. We now have a very comprehensive set up to cater to all different demands and needs. There’s no definite better or worse, it depends. If you are opting for budget travelling, but you don’t mind spending more time, then obviously the bus would be a great solution. If you want to have a reasonable way to get there on time and not get caught on traffic, then the ferry will be a suitable way.”
Three months later, when the visitation numbers revealed by Macau Government Tourism Office showed that arrivals from sea have dropped by 33.7 per cent year-on-year, Shun Tak TurboJET told Macau News Agency that the number of ferries operating will not be affected by the lower number of visitors coming via ferry.
Without surprise, since the number of visitor arrivals traveling by sea fell 35.2 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2019, another ferry services provider, Cotai Water Jet, removed six daily Macau-Hong Kong ferry routes in October. This cancellation follows another cut of three daily sailings between Taipa and Sheung Wan, in the summer.
There are fewer passengers, fewer boat trips and less service at the passenger terminals, especially Taipa’s huge Pac On.
In a first comment, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works downplayed the drop in the number of passengers using the maritime terminals, describing as “temporary” the impact that the HZMB will have on passenger movements of those infrastructures.
However, Raimundo do Rosário admitted that the future is “unpredictable”.
Do you experience motion sickness?
“The experience travelling from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Macau via the HZMB by hire car is quite easy (assuming you can hire a car as they are in limited supply)” stated a report from Bernstein.
“While the process of going through customs and immigration is not completely seamless, nonetheless, traveling via the bridge significantly cuts down travel time between Hong Kong International Airport and Macau Peninsula from approximately 2.5-3+ hours to ~1.5 hours,” wrote Vitaly Umansky.
But, the analyst underscored, “the cost of traveling by hire car is expensive compared to other transportation methods. Traveling by hire car costs HK$2,800 to go from Hong Kong International Airport to the immigration checkpoint at Zhuhai and Macau Boundary Crossing Facilities. Other than hire cars, visitors could also travel the HKZM bridge by bus. Traveling by bus is significantly cheaper (HK$65-70), but the multiple legs of connection inconvenience the travel experience.”
“In our view,” summarizes the Bernstein’s report, “visiting Macau via the HKZM Bridge makes sense if: 1) one is arriving into the HKIA or are coming from Kowloon or New Territories, 2) one is coming from the Hong Kong Island or Kowloon and cost is a concern (compared to travel time), or 3) one experiences motion sickness that prohibits you from taking a ferry.”