Tourism | IFT clarifies 40 million visitors not maximum, but optimal number

In response to widespread discussion on whether the city is fast approaching the maximum number of visitors it can comfortably accommodate, the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) has issued a statement clarifying how its research on Macau’s “tourism carrying capacity” ought to be interpreted.

The research showed that the city was able to receive up to 110,000 tourists per day, or 40 million per year, compared to the 35.8 million visitor arrivals recorded last year.

In its statement yesterday, the IFT stressed that its research was intended to act as an estimate of the “optimal tourism carrying capacity,” taking into account the “social and psychological carrying capacity” and “physical capacity of tourism facilities.”

The education institution added that this is the estimated maximum the city can accommodate without negatively impacting the cultural and natural environment, such as the city’s architecture, heritage and community, as well as visitor experiences.

However, “optimal tourism carrying capacity is a dynamic concept, which changes with the change in visitation volume, tourist behavior, and the supply and demand of tourism infrastructure and products.”

The findings have been discussed among government officials, lawmakers and the wider public at a time when concerns of over-tourism in Macau are rife.

And Macau might be welcoming 40 million arrivals per year sooner than previously thought.

Last year’s influx of 35.8 million tourists represented an almost 10% rise from 32.6 million in 2017, according to official data. Meanwhile, the number of visitors in January 2019 rose 24.9% year-on-year, while those in February increased by 15.5% year-on-year.

Responding to media reports that raised concerns about the city breaching the 110,000 visitor per day suggested maximum, the IFT said that too much attention was paid to the 21 of 104 days when the barrier was broken and not enough was given to the 83 days when the number of visitors was less than 110,000.

The IFT said that a more astute concern stemming from the research is the imbalance in visitation, with exceptional surges during peak travel periods and an excessive concentration of people at certain attractions.

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