Hotel prices driving international, Hong Kong visitors away

The recent spike in the hotel room prices in Macau following the border reopening and influx of tourists from the mainland is driving international visitors away from Macau, or at least motivating them to stay for a shorter period, visitors have told the Times.

Giancarlo and Anna are Italian nationals whom the Times encountered while they were traveling into Macau from the neighboring region of Hong Kong. Anna is currently working in Hong Kong, while Giancarlo was visiting her.

They decided to travel to Macau as part of a week’s tour organized by Anna for Giancarlo to see this part of the world, where he had never been before.

The couple confided to the Times that “they wish to stay a little longer” than the one-day trip they are starting but that the “hotel prices are impossible,” Anna said.

She noted that she tried several searches on major online hotel booking platforms to try to find a place where they could stay overnight, but the prices were “way over” their budget.

Curious to see “Macau’s Venice” replica, Giancarlo said that the idea was mostly to see the old Macau, as they have little interest in the casinos.

“I have heard about it of course and I saw photos of it but I want to see it with my eyes. I think will be funny,” he told the Times with a laugh.

The couple admitted to having significantly shortened their initial travel plans from two days to just one, adding also that they opted to travel to Macau by bus and then return by ferry, due to the unsuitable ferry schedules from Hong Kong to Macau.

“The last ferry is too early (in my view),” Anna said, adding, “Since we shortened the trip to one day, we want to come to Macau in the early hours of the day so we can still have the chance to browse the nightlife and the casinos before the morning rises. Then we just go around the city and monuments. If we are too tired, we will probably rest somewhere for a little and then we return to Hong Kong on the 5 p.m. ferry,” she explained.

To the Times, 41-year-old Maria, a Filipina national working in Hong Kong, also said she was town for a “short trip.”

“It’s actually my first time in Macau. I came from Hong Kong with two friends. We only met in the ferry terminal before boarding the ferry,” she said, noting that she wanted to see what Macau looked like as it is a popular destination among Filipinos, namely those seeking work abroad.

Contrary to Maria, who is returning to Hong Kong on the same day, the two friends said they were staying overnight, but not in a hotel.

“We are staying overnight and returning to Hong Kong tomorrow morning because we have a day off. We are staying at a boarding house that some fellow Filipino friends helped us to arrange,” Bella said.

Questioned by the Times if they ever considered staying in a hotel or another lodging facility, they quickly replied, “No! It’s impossible for us. Hotels are so expensive right now. Even these small ones… unreachable,” they said.

Contacted by the Times, the residents of Hong Kong – Angela and Bruno – also expressed similar thoughts. Angela, a teacher at a Hong Kong Secondary School, said that they do wish to come to Macau more often, but the budget necessary for such a trip makes it unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“In the past, we did these one-day trips once in a while, maybe once a month or so. But now we have a toddler and it’s quite complicated not to have a place to rest. It’s too tiring to go and return on the same day and the hotels are too expensive. We cannot spend 3 or 4,000 [HKD] for a night’s stay. This is a very important slice of the cake, as we would need probably another 2 to 3,000 for other expenses including transportation, food, and so on,” Angela said.

With a more straightforward approach, Bruno added, “Macau is for the high-rollers only. Those that do not mind the price tag, because, at the end of the day, they will be spending millions anyway. It is not for common mortals like us…”

Questioned as to their opinion about the idea suggested recently by the local government that Macau tourism operators, namely the gaming concessionaires, should cater more to international visitors, not to the mainland market, and diversify from the gaming industry, Bruno said, “I believe it is either just an expression of a wish or one of those things that some government officials say without really meaning it. In Hong Kong we see some international tourists, but they are coming with different purposes – either to take a job opportunity to come here or to join some kind of convention or seminar. Some also come to work for the short-term such as training staff from multinationals [companies] but these are just a few and I doubt they would have the interest to visit Macau, besides the casinos. Macau is all about casinos. If you remove that from the equation, I don’t think [Macau] can survive.”

Inexplicably high hotel prices

In research conducted by the Times, using a random weekend (March 17/18) as a reference, hotels were found to be charging, for a one-night stay, over MOP10,000 (Wynn Macau) and over MOP8,000 (The Ritz-Carlton Macau), with the majority of the hotels presenting prices ranging between MOP2,000 to 3,000.

In the Cotai area, it was virtually impossible to find a hotel unit charging below MOP3,000 for a one night stay for the given date, with the average price reaching over MOP4,000 per night.

In the Peninsula, where there are more options and hotels of a lower ranking, the prices still average over MOP2,000, with 3-star units like Hotel Sintra charging as much as MOP2,063 and Grand Emperor Hotel charging as much as MOP2,229, noting that the price was described as a “Great Deal” and was 38% less than usual.

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