Singapore penned next great engine for Macau tourism

Singapore has been designated as the next key market for tourism expansion, according to the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), following similar announcements made in recent years about South Korea and India.

“Macau has not been active in [marketing to] Singapore for a while, so this is a good time to re-tender our relationships and look for new representation here,” MGTO Director Helena de Senna Fernandes told TTG Asia. “It’s important to make a comeback in the Singapore market.”

At an event held in Singapore last Friday, the MGTO announced its partnership with travel blogger Keith Yuen, who traveled across the Greater Bay Area to produce an opinion on tourism development and share it with 80 members of the travel trade from Singapore, Macau and Zhuhai. Yuen also made about 20 social media postings, which earned over 30,000 likes and 1,600 comments from his followers.

Macau’s tourism chief reasoned that cultural ties between the peoples of Singapore and southern China might make it easier to entice more visitors from the city-state to visit Macau. It was a sensible market for expansion, she said, especially as many Singaporeans can trace their roots back to the Pearl River Delta region.

The MGTO is looking to open an office in the city-state “sometime next year,” according to Senna Fernandes.

Following years of targeted promotion, South Korea has emerged as Macau’s largest non-Chinese source market for visitors. More than a quarter-million South Korean tourists traveled to Macau in the first quarter of 2019, about the same number as those from Taiwan.

Similar calls to promote Macau as a tourist destination in India have not been as successful.

The call for more tourists comes at an unusual time for Macau, which has been grappling with how to manage ever-growing numbers since the start of the year. The number of visitors to Macau rose more than 21% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019, according to official data provided by the local government, fueling concerns of over-tourism.

Last year’s influx of 35.8 million tourists represented an almost 10% rise from 32.6 million in 2017. At its current growth trajectory, Macau is on track to break the symbolic 40-million mark this year, previously earmarked by Macau’s Institute for Tourism Studies as the city’s “optimal tourism carrying capacity.”

The rapid rise in the number of visitors has become a source of concern for the Macau public, especially as gaming receipts and other tourism spending are growing at a much slower pace or not at all.

Casino revenues during the first half of the year contracted 0.5% compared with the equivalent period in 2018, according to the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. The same rate of decline was measured in the first quarter of 2019. 

Tourism spending is also markedly down this year in per capita terms. It measured just MOP1,634 per visitor in the first three months of this year, down about 15% from a year earlier.

According to the available surveys, most retailers and restaurateurs do not anticipate a pickup in their business in the short-term.

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