Our Desk | A Golden ‘Weak’

Renato Marques

National Day and the subsequent “Golden Week” that follows – one of the semi-annual 7-day national holidays, implemented in 2000 by China’s Central Government – is always one of the most awaited moments of the year for Macau’s economic development; both government and private enterprises alike put big hopes on the outcomes from the week as there is usually a flooding of people across the peninsula and outlying islands.

Now that the week is gone, it is time to evaluate the outcomes, particularly since this year’s expectations were incredibly high, even leading some analysts to claim that this was going to be “The Best Golden Week Ever” or “Macau’s Best Week Holidays in Years.”

The hype around this holiday was set in the standard fashion. It is set in motion by a few gaming sector analysts and the comments of (very often just one) high-ranked marketing official working for the casinos. These grand expectations are usually (and were again this year) rapidly repeated by government officials.

I find it a quite complex task to analyze any of those statements as they are overstated and biased.

To what extent do these forecasts and figures reflect reality and how much of it is speculation is the question that always echoes in my mind as numbers seem to have been plucked from all over the place to support the claims.

According to the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), the visitors to Macau (specifically the number of people entering the region) during Golden Week this year increased by 11.6 percent year-on-year when compared with last year. This year Macau received a total of 844,522 visitors.

Going by those figures I would say that something weird is happening in Macau as I remember hearing from both MGTO director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes and from police authorities that an increase of (only) 5 percent was expected and, nevertheless, crowd control measures were being prepared to be put in place.

Although the increase in tourist numbers more than doubled the authorities’ expectations, the information points were empty, the circulation of people through the streets was just like on any regular Sunday and the crowd control barriers and special information signage remained covered and stored, their use not being necessary.

My question is, where were all these people? Is there a new attraction in town that I’m not aware of that caught them all?

The typical answer for these occasions is “at the casino”, but I dropped by most of them on several days and the movement of people was not unusually high at all.

I’m guessing the only possible answer would be “in the VIP rooms” – activities held in VIP sections seem to be much more complicated to scrutinize, even for the gaming inspection authorities, as was proven in several cases in the past.

Either way, there might be many factors behind such “invisible growth”- one likely factor may be the recent decline on the number of tourists registered last month that MGTO rushed to blame on “Hato” – the typhoon that struck Macau on August 23.

Again, the explanation of the authorities regarding that case are confusing and hard to believe as the tour groups were only suspended for a brief period right after the storm, resuming shortly after.

I’m not trying to say that the decisions from government could or should be any different, I’m just saying that when you hide behind the consequences of a decision you took it seems like in fact you’re assuming that you could have “done better,” and that was a lesson I learned with former weather bureau chief Fong Soi Kun.

Categories Opinion