Spare a thought for Macau. While the media has made much ado about the absence of arrivals at other tourism-dependent Asian destinations, Hong Kong’s neighbouring special administrative region has escaped attention. Travel and tourism are Macau’s bread and butter – the industry accounted for 72 per cent of the city’s GDP (gross domestic product) in 2019, according to data platform Knoema – but although it has for some time been open to mainland Chinese tourists , its lifeline, visitor numbers will take some time to return to the dizzying heights of 39.4 million arrivals, as seen in 2019. Speaking to local media in June, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macau Government Tourism Office, said that the city was expecting just “7 million to 8 million” visitors in 2021. However, there may be more Macau to visit in the future, if reports “circling” in Chinese-language media are to be believed. According to online gaming industry publication Inside Asian Gaming, “a handful” of media outlets have announced “that China’s central government is set to hand over the nearby Special Economic Zone of Hengqin to Macau”. These reports suggest that “Hengqin would either be given to Macau as a ‘gift’ or placed under Macau’s administration, either directly or in a joint arrangement with Guangdong province”, under whose jurisdiction it currently resides. Parts of Hengqin, a 100 sq km (39 square mile) island in Zhuhai , are already leased by Macau entities, including the University of Macau, where Macau laws – and internet access rules – apply. When will Taiwan open for travel again? It could be the last in Asia In August 2020, casino-industry platform GGRAsia reported that “Macau took a step closer to economic integration with the neighbouring mainland territory of Hengqin island […] when a boundary-crossing facility between the two places – known as Hengqin Port, part of which comes under Macau jurisdiction – officially opened its passenger-processing area.” Some of Macau’s big casino names already own land in Hengqin. According to Galaxy Entertainment Group’s website, the hotel and casino developer is planning to build “a world class, lifestyle leisure resort on a 2.7 square kilometre land parcel on Hengqin”. Shun Tak, meanwhile, “has a site area of 23,834 square metres, atop of which around 42,300 square metres of office, 45,500 square metres of retail, 16,700 square metres of hotel and 32,800 square metres of serviced flats have been planned, along with 1,311 car parking spaces”. But although the Shun Tak website maintains that “completion is targeted for 2020”, Inside Asian Gaming notes that none of the “contemplated future non-gaming developments […] have yet begun any significant construction work or announced details of their plans”. The onus for development on Hengqin is very much on “non-gaming” offerings. The island’s Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, an ethically questionable theme park with animal exhibits that opened in 2014, is part of the Chimelong International Ocean Tourist Resort, which investors hope will become the “ Orlando of China ” – but so far, that’s about all there is. Regarding any Hengqin handover, Inside Asian Gaming reported that “Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng refused to confirm any details […] but said further cooperation between Macau and Guangdong Province would be announced ‘very soon’.” An announcement could be expected on August 8, the publication hinted. If Hengqin is “gifted” to Macau, it should probably be considered as an absorption of the city into the Greater Bay Area rather than an expansion of the SAR. As Macau opens up to Chinese visitors, can it become a luxury shopping hub? In February 2019, Union Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen told GGRAsia: “Ultimately, it is the arrival of visitors that will drive the growth of Macau, and effectively combining Macau into the other jurisdictions of the Greater Bay Area can only result in significantly more visitation […] Beijing wants and needs Macau to succeed and the government will stop at nothing to ensure this. The closer all these jurisdictions become, the easier it is to move people around between them.” An April 2019 plan for the Greater Bay Area published by Beijing stated that Hengqin would be developed into a “high-standard international leisure and tourism island” to “complement Macau’s development into a world tourism and leisure centre”. Previous efforts to do that seem to have failed, so here’s to bankin’ on Hengqin! Unesco World Heritage list adds new sites, and removes one Every year, the United Nations’ cultural body meets to, among other things, adjust its World Heritage Sites list. At the 2020/21 online meeting (two in one because of the Covid-19 lockdowns), which has just concluded and was officially hosted by Fuzhou, China, two destinations – Britain’s “Maritime Mercantile City”, Liverpool, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – made headlines for the wrong reasons: the former was thrown off the list altogether, because of the neglect shown to its cultural heritage, while politics appeared to play a part in helping the latter avoid being placed on the “in danger” section of the list. Venice also avoided censure . On the plus side, though, Unesco added several “properties” to the World Heritage List, one of which includes sites in seven countries: the “Great Spa Towns of Europe”. Among the Asian attractions added is the Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple, in the Indian state of Telangana. Popularly known as Ramappa Temple, it dates back to 1213 and is home to “sculptures of high artistic quality [that] illustrate regional dance customs and Kakatiyan culture”, according to Unesco. China’s port city of Quanzhou was also inscribed . The “Emporium of the World” is celebrated for its maritime vibrancy during the Song and Yuan periods “and its interconnection with the Chinese hinterland”. The site comprises religious buildings, including an 11th century mosque, Islamic tombs and a range of archaeological remains, illustrating the multicultural exchanges of the Maritime Silk Road. Other sites added to the World Heritage List this year include: the Hima Cultural Area, in Saudi Arabia; Iran’s Trans-Iranian Railway; the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, in Madrid, Spain; the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, in Thailand; and the Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats. Good luck visiting any of them before Unesco next adjusts its list.