Hundreds of travellers spent at least four hours lining up at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan on Friday to take advantage of free return tickets the government of the casino hub is offering to boost arrival numbers. Cheng Wai-tong, the deputy director of the Macau Government Tourism Office, on Friday said he expected about 10,000 Hongkongers would visit the city daily during the Lunar New Year holidays, although he hoped the number could rise to 20,000, a level last seen in 2019. “The more Hong Kong people visit Macau the better,” he said. “This is tied to the capacity of ferries and buses, because it will take some time to restore services to pre-Covid-19 levels.” A campaign called Macau Treat to revive tourism will see the government reimburse visitors with a free return ride on buses or ferries as long as they stay in the city for at least one night from Friday to March 31. Hong Kong visitors will also receive coupons for dining and shopping at over 100 restaurants and retailers from next Friday. The pier resumed service on January 8, following a three year-closure because of the pandemic. Stephenie Fung, in her 30s, said she was planning a three-day trip in Macau on January 29 and entered the line at 9.30am. “We haven’t been to Macau for more than two years and have been planning to visit the city for a while,” she said. Fung finally secured the tickets after spending four hours and 45 minutes in line. From TeamLab experience to hotels and restaurants, what’s new in Macau Leon Lam, 70, a clockmaker who planned to spend time with his family and friends in Macau over the holiday, complained the ticket service was not ready for a promotion and buyers had to wait too long. After an hour in line, he was still not close to the counter. “Along with the promotional ticket, they should also improve the efficiency of service by adding more selling counters,” Lam said. “Otherwise they are wasting our time.” At about 3.30pm, newcomers were told not to join the queue. Security staff of operator TurboJet, run by Shun Tak Holdings and China Travel International Investment Hong Kong, explained that not enough time was left before closing to issue any more tickets. Lucy Gong, 31, arrived at the ticket office at 3.35pm, only to find she could not join the queue. “I didn’t imagine that the queue was so long and it would take such a long time to get the ticket,” she said. “I will definitely arrive earlier tomorrow.” Four free tickets are available for each buyer, from five counters, and buyers need to provide identity card details for each passenger. Jimmy Chau, 58, joined the queue at 9.40am and waited six hours for tickets. Transport services between Hong Kong and Macau to resume after eased curbs “We need to provide our ID number for the ticket, so for those who are buying for their friends or family, they will spend a lot of time checking the information with them,” Chau said. “In this case, it takes 10 minutes for them to get the ticket.” “I think the ticket office has done a fairly good job already. You can’t expect everything to be perfect on the first day,” Chau added. Competition for tourists intensified following the resumption of quarantine-free travel between mainland China and Hong Kong earlier this month. According to the tourism office’s Cheng, Macau hotels had 37 per cent vacancy for the holidays but he expected the final number would be closer to 90 per cent. Competition for tourists will get tougher next month because Hong Kong plans to launch a HK$100 million (US$12.8 million) promotional campaign. Hong Kong’s campaign will feature vouchers for tourists to over 130 attractions as well as coupons for dining outlets and retail shops and drinks at over 100 restaurants.