Macau Adds More COVID-19 Travel Restrictions as Golden Week Ends in Disappointment for Casinos

  • The Macau government has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for Beijing travelers
  • Golden Week travel fell to around 35,000 people for the period, down from 156,000 in 2020
  • Tourism declined throughout the week, coinciding with confirmation of quarantine measures
  • Continued restrictions could see the region’s GGR fall 80% from pre-pandemic levels in October
  • Macau has seen ten cases of COVID-19 since September 24, many involving hotel security guards
Macau flag mask
Macau has struggled with the effects of the pandemic since March last year, and now the return of border restrictions have caused travel numbers for the Chinese Golden Week holiday to fall dramatically. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Restrictions dampen the mood

In the past, the Chinese Golden Week holiday has represented a period of huge profits for casino operators in the gambling hub of Macau. Residents of mainland China typically flock to the Special Administrative Region (SAR) between October 1 and 7 as they celebrate Chinese New Year. However, travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic have left casinos disappointed this time around.

14-day quarantine for travelers coming into Macau from Beijing

A recent surge in virus cases has led to the return of compulsory quarantine restrictions in Macau. This includes strict testing and quarantine requirements for those entering the SAR from the nearby Chinese city of Zhuhai. Over the weekend, officials implemented a new mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers coming into Macau from Beijing.

All of this has had a negative impact on Golden Week travel. According to data released on Friday by Macau’s Public Security Police, average tourist arrivals for the festive period fell by almost 94% year-on-year to just 1,166.

The data from Golden Week

In the build-up to this year’s Golden Week, analysts predicted that up to half of those planning to visit Macau from mainland China had canceled their trips in light of new travel restrictions. This is certainly evident in the ultimate visitor figures. Around 35,000 people entered Macau for the holiday this year, while a staggering 156,000 entered the Special Administrative Region in 2020.

The average number of tourist arrivals fell throughout the seven-day period this year. It began at a peak of 1,749 achieved on October 1, falling to 669 by October 5, and then to 498 on October 6. By October 7, the visitor tally fell to the lowest total of 418 arrivals. This decline coincided with Zhuhai’s decision to maintain its 14-day quarantine measure for those returning from Macau.

Macau’s gross gaming revenue will fall 80% from pre-pandemic levels in October

As a result of continued restrictions, analysts for brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd have estimated that Macau’s gross gaming revenue will fall 80% from pre-pandemic levels in October. The firm has also lowered its forecast for full-year revenue, predicting a 69% drop from 2019 but a 51% increase year-on-year.

A continued fight against infection

In response to its first new cases of coronavirus in 18 months, the Macau government immediately initiated a four-day mass coronavirus testing program at the end of September. In addition to the quarantine rules for those entering Macau from locations such as Beijing, the region has also introduced restrictions for outbound travel. People leaving its borders must present a nucleic acid test result proving they are COVID-19 negative.

Added to this, Macau’s flagship airline canceled flights from the region to certain locations in the run-up to Golden Week.

Air Macau announced at the beginning of this month that it would no longer take passengers to Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Nantong, Beijing, Shanghai, and other destinations between October 1 and 24.

Despite the best efforts of Macau authorities, the region has continued to see new infections. The SAR has recorded a total of ten new virus cases since September 24. A large number of these involve security guards working at local hotels used for quarantine purposes.

Although casinos can continue to operate for now, Macau chief executive Ho Iat Seng has confirmed that they will close if officials link them to any new outbreaks.