Travel restrictions

The local gambling and tourism sector could rebound quickly after the easing of travel restrictions – Industry representatives

Macao SAR’s tourism market could see a recovery similar to that reported in Las Vegas following the removal of travel restrictions, given existing pent-up demand, gaming and industry representatives noted. ‘aviation.

The France Macau Chamber of Commerce (FMCC) hosted a webinar today, featuring Andrew Klebanow, Co-Founder and Senior Partner of C3 Gaming, and Celia Lao, Managing Director Greater China for Air Asia, with the webinar hosted by Mary Mendoza, Managing Director of The Platinum and Head of the FMCC GBA Tourism and Leisure Committee.

During the webinar, Klebanow outlined Las Vegas’ road to recovery since pandemic restrictions were fully lifted last year.

Macau SAR’s total gaming gross revenue this month remained at around MOP 200 million (US$24.8 million), heavily impacted by the recent community outbreak in the city and a suspension 12 days of casino operations.

In May this year, gambling winnings reported by Vegas operators reached $1.3 billion, up 5.71% year-on-year, also marking the 15th consecutive month with gambling winnings topping $1 billion according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

At the same time, the gaming win in May surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with gaming revenue in the region breaking not only state records, but national records as well.

Klebanow pointed out that after Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the lifting of all statewide restrictions except face masks on June 1, 2021, it felt like “someone flipped a switch”.

“Tourism has rebounded, and I’m not talking about a slow, predictable pace, but literally business has come back overnight,” he noted.

Other variants have also not caused a drop in tourism levels, Las Vegas casinos, aside from certain pandemic prevention requirements such as entrance temperature checks and reduced capacity game, essentially enforcing a ‘don’t change a thing’ attitude to ‘get back to normal as soon as possible’

Aircraft movements at Harry Reid Airport in Las Vegas also gradually recovered until it recorded its third-busiest month on record in May 2022, while hotel occupancy rates increased. picked up almost immediately and is currently at around 80%.

“Once vaccines started to become widely available in March 2021, people felt very comfortable going out again and there was this pent-up demand for entertainment, to just get out of the house or get out of the town to go to the casino and escape,” he said. Noted.

Andrew Klebanow

“I think that’s what you can expect to see in Macau, there will be huge pent-up demand. I can’t tell you when it will start but it will come. When the casinos have opened, customers are income all at the same time, not only in Las Vegas but in all gambling jurisdictions.

At the same time, Celia Lao noted that Air Asia already has everything in place for an immediate restoration of existing pre-pandemic air links to Macau as soon as restrictions are eased.

“We actually operated 81 flights to Macau before Covid, so we can resume all those flights fairly quickly. We still have team members in Macau and all this infrastructure is already built, we also have all the approvals. As soon as the border opens, we can really resume operations,” Lao said.

“Some of the cities and countries in the region, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, have already opened up with certain pandemic policies since last year and then without restrictions since April this year. It is a process but we are preparing. We already have experience with South East Asian countries and have already resumed flights to Hong Kong next door.

Data provided by Ms Lao showed that global airline capacity reached around 20% of 2019 levels in 2020, but domestic and international air traffic managed to recover from 43.4 million and 12.2 million, respectively, in 2020, to 65.2 million and 36.8 million in 2020. 2022.

The Air Asia representative also noted that the aviation group has maintained discussions with Macau aviation authorities to prepare offers that will resume when restrictions are lifted.

Celia Lao

We can look at the routes we took over in Hong Kong, we took over three routes from Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila in Hong Kong. These are key routes that we can also see coming back to Macau,” Lao said.

However, Klebanow warned that one of the biggest changes the RAD will face will be rebuilding its pool of contracted expat talent, following the past two years of pandemic restrictions.

“That will probably be your biggest problem, expats have gone home and are very reluctant to come back. I have colleagues who worked in Macau for 15 years, came back last year and said they were done,” he noted.

“You will have a hard time bringing these people back. My suggestion is to start developing a plan for this and consider what it will take to get these employees back quickly when business picks up.

Asked about the tightening of control exercised by central and local authorities over Macau’s gaming sector, either through increased monitoring of capital flows out of the country or through the new gaming amendment, Klebanow pointed out that gaming remains one of the main attractions the city had to offer.

“I understand the pressure from the central government to reposition Macau as a bigger entertainment destination, but I also understand that Macau is the only place in the PRC you can go and gamble, it’s quite an attractive position to have. in the market,” he said. declared.

“Yes, casino and gaming operators will be changing their amenities, adding rooms, adding entertainment, and adding a variety of non-gaming amenities to broaden their appeal, but you can’t deny the fact that Macau has a unique attribute that no other city in China has”

As for the reduction in revenue to be made by the disappearance of the importance of junket operators in the Macau market, the gaming consultant noted that although “certainly a significant loss, the mass of bonuses will allow better profit margins for the dealers.