Chinese tourists

Macau reduced to a shuffle as mainland Chinese tourists flood in

Main checkpoint will deal with more than five times the city's population over the holiday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 4:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 4:56pm

A sense of frustration prevailed among Macau residents over the Lunar New Year as hundreds of thousands of mainland tourists swamped the city.

About 2.7 million people, mostly mainlanders and a smaller portion of Macanese, are expected to have crossed in and out of Macau at the main Gongbei Port checkpoint at Zhuhai by the end of the week-long holiday - more than five times the SAR's population of just over 550,000.

Some 200,000 mainlanders crossed the border into Macau on Sunday alone.

People queueing at 11am for the Hong Kong to Macau Turbojet ferry found themselves having to wait for ferries after 2pm. In Macau it was worse, with tickets sold at 11am for ferries after 11pm.

The former Portuguese colony is less than 3 per cent the size of Hong Kong and tourists were squeezing shoulder to shoulder up the lane to the Ruins of St Paul's. The Post counted more than 150 people walk past one point in a minute.

In an unprecedented move, the government imposed a policed, one-way pedestrian system to ease the flow of people along the main thoroughfare, the Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.

Local pro-Beijing media and mainland tourists said the crowd-control measure was "effective", but residents told the South China Morning Post it made life more difficult.

"What's normally a five-minute walk has become 15 minutes, if not longer," said June Chan Yun-wai, who was headed to a pharmacy when she got caught up among the thousands of people in Largo de Senado, the square in the centre of Macau, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Queues at bus stops stretched down the street as people were unable to fit onto crowded buses.

Newspaper vendor Ben Lai Hou-kei, whose stall has stood near the square for four decades, said it was more crowded than last Lunar New Year. "There was little planning by the government," he said. "And the ruthless pace of mainlanders conflicts with the local way of life."

Zhu Ruiting, from Zhuhai, said she had expected the crowds as it was her third Lunar New Year holiday in the SAR. Chen Bin, from Guangxi province, complained of overcharging by taxi drivers and his hotel.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, NeoDemocrats legislator Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Roy Tam Hoi-bong, convenor of a concern group on population policy, were among activists in Mongkok handing out banners saying: "Reduce the solo travellers scheme."

They urged mainlanders not to come to the city as it had reached capacity.

Additional reporting by Johnny Tam