The pathway out of COVID-19 lockdown could provide a unique opportunity for the government and private sector to collaborate more closely on the best way forward for a diversified Macau, but demand for rapid economic recovery will most likely see the opportunity lost.
So says Professor Glenn McCartney, Associate Professor in International Integrated Resort Management, University of Macau, in a new analysis published this week examining the impact of coronavirus on Macau and the road to tourism recovery.
The analysis, which categorizes Macau’s COVID response into three waves, credits the SAR’s “top down” governance system for enabling a fast and effective response that has until now limited total infections to just 45.
While the first wave included the closure of all Macau casinos for 15 days in February and cancellation of Chinese New Year celebrations, and the second wave saw the borders shut down, it is the coming third wave – in which Macau’s borders will be gradually re-opened – that provides a rare opportunity to pave a new way forward, according to McCartney.
“Given there has been limited diversification beyond gaming since casino liberalization in early 2000, using wave three as an opportunity to engage with industry and a more collaborative approach with the private sector can provide greater consensus on a way forward for Macau,” he says.
“Moving to a third wave post-coronavirus recovery should involve a public-private sector collaborative framework rather than maintaining a ‘top-down’ approach, providing an opportunity to look at tourism diversification.”
However, just as the obvious environmental improvements the world has witnessed during shutdown are unlikely to continue as governments target construction and infrastructure to boost their economies, “in tourism and hospitality the economic need and stimulus required to recover quickly, as in Macau, could greatly outweigh any social or environmental discussions.”
The result could be that Macau emerges from COVID-19 more reliant on its casino industry than ever.
“Rather than a ‘rethink’ on tourism, the immense economic fallout to Macau’s casino industry will mean a focus on Macau’s core casino business and Chinese travel markets,” McCartney explains
“Likewise, the city’s tourism and destination marketing authorities would resume their modus operandi prior to coronavirus.”