There was a time when it seemed like COVID-19 was almost completely eradicated in most countries, but the pockets of outbreaks show that there is still more work to be done. Macau was hit hard by the pandemic, with the gambling city turning into a ghost town as borders and casinos were forced to be closed. Just when it appeared that the city was starting to recover, it might be forced to take a huge step backward. As the world still debates the origin of COVID-19 and tries to get it under control, a new spike in the number of coronavirus cases in China has made some people nervous.
Macau Tourism Slips on New COVID-19 Threat
Several provinces in China have reported new outbreaks of COVID-19 cases. Among these provinces is Guangdong, which borders Macau and has always been a major thoroughfare of tourism traffic for the city. However, because of the spikes in mainland China, tourists from the country are likely to think twice before heading to Macau’s casinos for a little R&R.
Macau is still operating with travel restrictions in place for most countries, measures that have been necessary to avoid another year of near-zero revenue at its casinos. China and Macau, however, had a quarantine-free travel bubble in place, but, since a couple of weeks ago, Guangdong, along with the Anhui and Liaoning provinces, have been included in Macau’s quarantine list. Anyone arriving from a location on that list must quarantine for 14 days before being allowed to roam freely throughout the city.
Some cities with the Guangdong province are being hit with more restrictions by Macau. Guangzhou and Shenzhen are now highlighted and, in addition, anyone leaving Guangzhou has to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure in order to be allowed to leave. Certain parts of the city have also been shut down and the public transportation services suspended.
Poor Timing For a New Outbreak
Macau is gearing up for what should be a productive summer. The city has seen a solid increase in gross gaming revenue that is expected to continue. Now, however, city officials and casino operators will need to closely monitor the situation to see how things develop over the next couple of weeks, but they’re remaining optimistic. Wu Keng Kuong, the president of the Travel Industry Council of Macau, asserts, “[We] still think that Macau could achieve an average hotel occupancy of around 60 to 70 percent for [July and August], as the city’s travel trade would still be supported by mainland China tourists.”
It’s too early to determine how any new COVID-19 problems in Macau might impact efforts to update casino concessions. The pandemic forced Macau officials to delay reworking the city’s gaming laws, which must be in place before the concessions can be issued. It has been asserted that the new gambling framework will be in place by September, but local government officials are hoping to scrutinize the background of Macau’s six casino operators, which could alter those plans.