More than 30 million people visited Macau last year, a record, but the number is unlikely to grow much this year and may fall amid the global financial crisis, its tourism chief says. 'At the end of 2009, if we have the same number as in 2008, that'll be a good result,' said Joao Manuel Costa Antunes, director of the Macau Government Tourist Office. Still, he said people should not be too pessimistic about tourism prospects. 'There are still roses under a blue sky and the sunshine is wonderful,' Mr Antunes said. 'The blue sky can turn grey and rain can come, but a typhoon is still far away.' Macau counts all arrivals, including non-resident workers, as visitors. As a result, the city's large imported workforce skews the figures. Mr Antunes said a new method - counting only 'the real tourists' - would be in place as early as next month or March. The tourism chief said 11 per cent more people visited Macau last year than in 2007, with the number of visitors from the mainland rising by 17 per cent to 17.5 million. The city's tourism industry has been buffeted by the financial crisis, limits on mainlanders visiting Macau, and the launch of frequent direct flights across the Taiwan Strait. Some travellers between the mainland and Taiwan previously transited via Macau. The government has trimmed its forecast for the number of hotel rooms it expects the city to have by the end of next year. Last January, it projected the number could double within two to three years - suggesting there would be more than 32,000 rooms by the end of next year. Yesterday, Mr Antunes forecast that just 4,000 new rooms would be added in the next two years. The city had just over 17,000 hotel rooms in November, suggesting there will be 21,000 by the end of 2010. Andy Wu Keng-kuong, head of the Macau Travel Industry Council, said the global financial turmoil had led to a drop in visitors from Europe and the US in recent months, but he was still optimistic for this year. 'We are launching more direct flights to Southeast Asia. When the economy is good, people tend to go for long-haul routes; when the economy is bad, they tend to go for short-haul routes.' Mr Antunes said the number of East Asian visitors had risen sharply last year. Arrivals from Japan and South Korea were up by nearly a quarter from a year earlier. Arrivals from Thailand rose 81 per cent and those from Singapore were up 41 per cent. He said Macau would promote multi-destination tours with other cities in the Pearl River Delta.