Macau sees visitation hike after lifting of Covid restrictions; GGR reaches 40% of Q4 2022 in just 15 days

Tourists are flocking to Macau after the gambling hub moved to lift its Covid-19 restrictions earlier this month. Visitation to the Chinese city and its gaming revenue for the first 10 days of January are the best they have been in two years, according to reports by government officials, while JP Morgan Securities points out GGR reached 40% of the Q4 level in just 15 days.

The Public Security Police Force of Macao announced 109,386 visitor arrivals in the first three days since Chinese government authorities relaxed health and safety requirements on Sunday, January 8, and reopened borders that had been subject to quarantines, reports Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The hub has dropped its entry restrictions for visitors from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and eliminated all quarantine requirements for visitors from non-Chinese nations. However, group tours have yet to be authorized by mainland authorities, even though visitors are entering on individual visas and joining local tours upon arrival to the city.

Ferries are also now operational for the first time in three years, and officials incentivize trips to Macau by offering two-for-one ferry deals from Hong Kong. JP Morgan analyst D.S. Kim said in a report that the estimated gaming revenue figure of $32.3 million per day for Jan. 1-8 was more than double the $14.9 million average for both the fourth quarter of 2022 and all of the fiscal year 2022

The investment bank also estimates the city could have conjured up some MOP4.3 billion ($533.5 million) in the first 15 days of the month, a figure that would stand at about 41.8% of the level for the whole fourth quarter of last year, reports Macau Business.

Kim said the news was “very encouraging,” given it included only a few days of full border reopening. Macau operators have new optimism for the market since the Chinese central government began lifting restrictions and border crossings, and an intense bounce-back is now expected for 10 days starting on January 22, when the Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated.

With Macau averaging over 40,000 tourists in the last few days, expectations are that the New Year holiday will bring in up to 60,000 at its peak and 47,000 daily tourists on average. The head of the tourism bureau told TDM Canal Macau that “we won’t have 55,000 visitors every day, but we are still expecting an average of 47,000 visitors.”

A rebound has long been expected by operators in the gambling hub. Casinos active in Macau completed their worst financial year on record on December 31, when the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported a gross gaming win of $5.24 billion for 2022. 

In their latest monthly report, corresponding to December, Macau casinos posted $432.6 million in revenue. That total was 56.3% behind the total from December 2021, and overall 57.4% below the amount won in 2021. The worst year prior to 2022 was 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in casino closures and $7.51 billion in gaming win.

Gaming revenues over the past two years have been volatile as a result of China’s “zero Covid” policy, which calls for shutting down cities on the mainland and closed borders, keeping tourism away. For that reason, the new relaxations are such welcomed news: for the CNY holiday period, authorities estimate about 70% of hotel room occupancy, up from 42.2% in December.