Macau sees only 0.3pc rise in visitors but record gaming revenue

Stagnant global economy blamed for low growth in tourist numbers last year, but city also reports record increase in casino revenue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 4:02am

Visitor numbers in Macau last year did not increase significantly despite casinos raking in a record high in revenue.

Based on preliminary figures, the city saw 28 million visitors in 2012 - only a 0.3 per cent increase from the previous year - said Macau Government Tourist Office director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes yesterday. The annual visitor growth was 12.2 per cent in 2011 and 14.8 per cent in 2010.

Of the 28 million visitors to Macau, 25 million were from the Greater China region, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, while the remaining three million were international visitors from countries such as Korea and Japan.

The number of visitors from Greater China rose by 0.4 per cent while that of international visitors fell by 0.5 per cent last year.

People from mainland China alone accounted for 17 million visits - a 4.6 per cent increase from that in 2011 - but the number of Hong Kong and Taiwan visitors dropped by 6.6 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.

Fernandes blamed the stagnant global economy for the mild growth. "Tourism is very much affected by economic conditions … Given the situation of last year's global economy, I believe this is the main reason we did not enjoy a big increase in terms of tourism," she said.

But the tourist office's prime goal was to attract visitors to stay longer, Fernandes said. "[Visitors] staying longer will be a better contribution to the economy," she said. "Our job is not just to always be looking for an increase in absolute numbers."

Last year, 14 million visitors stayed overnight in Macau - a five per cent increase from the year before - with nearly nine million of them staying in hotels, a 10 per cent rise from 2011. The average length of a guest's hotel stay was 1.4 nights, figures showed.

Meanwhile, Macau's casino industry reported a record gross gaming revenue of 304 billion patacas, up a 13.5 per cent from the previous year's 270 billion.

Professor Davis Fong Ka-chio, a gaming management associate professor from the University of Macau, attributed the record gaming revenue to the casinos' move of raising the minimum gambling amounts on the mass gaming floor.

"In early 2012, the minimum bets for the mass gaming floor of many casinos were increased from 300 to 500 patacas, to 500 to 1,000 patacas," he said. "As a result, the gambling amount of the whole 2012 is increased."

Some casinos like Galaxy, the Venetian and City of Dreams have also attracted more mainland clients with customised services such as personal towels and cups for premium gamblers on the mass gambling floor, Fong said. He said he expected casino revenue to grow by 10 per cent to about 330 billion patacas this year as visitors stayed longer.