IAG April 2015 - page 6

iversification remains one of Macau’s loudest
buzzwords, a government imperative for casino
operators and a key to making Macau the world
center of tourism and leisure envisioned by Beijing’s
Five Year Plan for 2011-15. Economic diversification
has proven elusive in view of Macau’s gaming-centric tourist mix;
customerswant what theywant.
Another potential area of diversification, greater variety in
Macau’s visitor pool, has been largely unexplored, an outcome of
what’s been sound financial judgment, if poor risk management.
Now, with edicts out of Beijing again discouraging high rollers away
from visiting Macau, the decision to focus on the China market
highlightsMacau’s vulnerability, deepens the current downturn and
limits options to reverse it. Yet there’s no assurance that tourists
from beyondGreater China—themainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan
—will visit Macau in great numbers; that Macau casino operators
reallywant them; or, if they come, thatMacau candelight them.
Visitor arrivals toMacaushattered the 30millionbarrier last year,
rising 7.5% to 31.5 million, following two years of sluggish growth.
Tourists fromGreaterChina,Macau’s top threemarkets, rose8.5% to
In Focus
Reducedspendingbymainland visitors
highlights theneed forMacau to
expand its tourist sources.Whether
more international travelerswill visit
andwhetherMacaucanhandle them
remain tobeseen
28.6million,90.8%of total arrivals.TheMacauGovernmentTourism
Office, “working to diversify visitor source” through presence in 17
cities on four continents, plus Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong, says
Macau is succeeding in drawing the broader international market.
“In 2003, the number of international visitor arrivals—Greater
China excluded—was around 500,000, accounting for 4.2% of the
total number of visitor arrivals,”MGTO’smedia department states.
“Ten years after, in 2014, the number increased to 2.8million, which
represented9.2%of the total visitor arrivals.”
Those numbers, though accurate, present a skewed view. The
SARS outbreak hit arrivals across the board in 2003, and it wasn’t
until 2004 that Sands Macao ushered in the post-monopoly era in
gaming. In the years that followed, visitor arrivals rose dramatically
in all segments. By 2006, the yearMacau overtook Las Vegas as the
world leader in gaming revenue, total arrivals had increased to 22
million,with 1.6millionor 7.4% frombeyondGreaterChina. In2008,
Venetian Macao’s first full year of operation, total arrivals were 23
million, just over 3million of them international, 13.3% of the total,
highmarks to date on both fronts. After a dip in 2009 as the global
economic slump reachedAsia, international visitor numbers topped
3million again in 2012 andhave tapered since.
Since 2003, there’s been a much bigger trend at work. Mainland
Chinese visitors toMacau have risen from 5.9million, 48.3% of total
arrivals in 2003, to 21.2million, 67.4%of total arrivals last year. Since
July2003, the IndividualVisitorSchemehasallowedmainlandChinese
to travel toMacau (andHongKong)without joiningagroup tour. The
program has expanded from an initial four cities to more than 50,
encompassing some 300millionof themainland’s richest citizens.
Despite headwinds including President Xi Jinping’s anti-
corruption drive and China’s slowing economic growth, Macau’s
mainlandarrivalsgrew 14.1% last year. Since2008,mainlandarrivals
have not just have accounted for all of Macau’s tourism growth
but offset falling arrivals fromHong Kong and Taiwan, respectively
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