Tourists are arriving in Macau via land, sea and air thanks to rapid infrastructure developments that helped the city host 22.9 million visitors last year. In comparison, the city had 7.4 million tourists in 1999. Visitor numbers surged after the liberalisation of the gaming industry in 2002 and the implementation of more efficient border crossings, more ferries and better air connections helped make the city more accessible. More than just visitors, thousands have migrated to the enclave to seek their fortune in construction, design and services. Macau's population in 1999 was 430,000, compared with 540,000 this year. Joao Manuel Costa Antunes, director of the Macau Government Tourist Office, believes the improvement in infrastructure shows no sign of stopping. 'In the past 10 years, the infrastructure of Macau has made great progress in various aspects, from which the tourism industry has benefited,' he says. 'For example, the improvement in checkpoint facilities and more flight connections make it more convenient for travellers. 'The development of infrastructure in Macau shows no sign of ceasing as we have a number of new projects in the pipeline to diversify Macau's attractiveness as a tourist destination.' Macau International Airport is served by 18 airlines with 33 passenger and freight routes. Out of 5.1 million passengers last year, 3.78 million chose Macau as a destination or starting point. This was up 12.9 per cent compared with 2007. The airport opened in 1995 and last year it recorded its second best year to date. Rather than playing a minor transport role in the Pearl River Delta, in 2003 the airport began to transform itself into a final destination. In 2004, Macau set a milestone when it allowed budget airline Air Asia to start services at the airport. To date, Macau is home to four low-cost airlines, LCCs: Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Tiger Airways and Jetstar. But there are growing pains as many complain about the lack of local infrastructure. During peak hours, tourists and locals are often stranded thanks to the demand for taxis. According to the tourist office, detailed planning is under way for the first phase of an automated light rail to ease the traffic congestion. Last year, 52 per cent - or 12 million - of arrivals came via land and the government has been making concerted efforts to manage and improve border checks. 'The expansion project at the border gate checkpoint that links Macau and the mainland was launched in June and on completion it will be capable of handling up to 500,000 people per day,' a tourist office spokesman says. 'The expansion work will be finalised in two more phases this year, allowing more electronic entry and exit systems to be implemented and increasing the number of escalators from three to six. The new electronic entry-and-exit systems already in effect for Macau permanent residents might soon include Hong Kong residents.' Mark Horan, chief operating officer of Shun Tak Holdings' hospitality division, says: 'There is still room for improvement in terms of public transport and other supporting facilities - the light-rail project, improved accessibility from entry and exit points with custom, immigration and quarantine, and health care facilities are necessary to support the expansion in visitor numbers. 'This would particularly be important for the business tourism segment, which is not afforded much leisure time when conducting business.' Clemson Lo, the general manager of MV Destination Management, says: 'We still face many challenges. These include the baggage-handling capacity of piers and the airport. These would have difficulty handling more baggage because there is a limited number of baggage carousels and porters. 'Taxis are still in demand, especially during peak hours. This will probably be solved when the monorail is ready. I recommend the speeding up of the monorail project and increasing taxi licences to ease the traffic problems.' Financing for the 29.6-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge has been settled by the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. The bridge should cost 40 billion yuan (HK$45.6 billion) and work is expected to start next year and finish in 2016.