In what appears to be a calculation error, Macau immigration authorities have overstated the annual rise in visitors during the Cheng Ming Festival period by a factor of 100.
Data released today from the Public Security Police Force (PSP), the entity which oversees Macau immigration services, indicated that the number of visitors over the holiday period equated to about 425,000. According to the statistics, this represented an increase of 23.6 percent over the previous year.
The number of visitors in the previous year’s Cheng Ming Festival period was not provided in today’s data release as a point of comparison.
However, reviewing data from 2018, the Times has learned that visitor arrivals during the equivalent period amounted to 424,000, or almost the same as this year.
The actual rise in visitors is closer to a 0.236 percent increase.
This year’s Cheng Ming Festival period was measured from Friday April 5 to Sunday April 7, with the festivities falling on the Friday, compared to last year when it fell on a Thursday. The three days amounted to an extended weekend, which usually signals increased visitation.
It is not the first time that errors and inconsistencies have been reported by the two government entities that publish data on tourism figures.
In April last year, the Times investigated a pattern of inconsistent (and often inflated) reports on visitor arrivals for the Chinese Lunar New Year period, examining predictions, preliminary and revised data provided by both the PSP and the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) between 2014 and 2018.
The Times found that inaccuracies are carried forward, year after year, because the preliminary figures, which are almost always higher than the actual number, are compared with the actual number of the previous period.
In response, the MGTO protested that its reports were “neither ‘estimations’, ‘forecasts’ nor ‘predictions’. […] The data released by MGTO are ‘preliminary’ or ‘provisional’ figures [… and therefore] not ‘overstated’ or ‘inflated’.”
However, the public – and often the media – remain unaware of such misinformation because government agencies avoid circulating data revisions, especially when it becomes clear that the actual numbers fall considerably short of initial estimations, forecasts or predictions.
This was made apparent today, when Chinese, Portuguese and English online media in Macau reported that the number of visitors in this period had increased by between 23 to 24 percent.
The Times contacted the PSP to request the corrected data, but no reply was received by press time.