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The backstory: Macau, a popular destination for Chinese tourists, is famous for its entertainment and gambling scene. It's the only place in China where gambling is allowed, and it's packed with top-notch casinos, hotels, dining and entertainment. Macau's success as a leisure spot for Chinese travelers is due to its shared language, culture and good transportation.
More recently: China's economic growth has shown signs of slowing down recently, possibly dipping below the 5% mark. Meanwhile, Macau is changing its focus. Instead of relying on high-rolling gamblers, it's working to become a world-class entertainment hub, much like Las Vegas.
The development: The recent Golden Week holiday from September 29 to October 6 saw a surge in tourists to Macau. This holiday, combining the Mid-Autumn festival and National Day, led to a rush in flight bookings, especially for long-haul international flights. During Golden Week, Macau's casinos went all out to attract visitors, hosting events like poolside dance parties with NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, fireworks, music festivals and concerts by famous Hong Kong singers.
In just eight days, Macau welcomed over 900,000 tourists, with most coming from mainland China. The daily visitor numbers to the region nearly reached 84% of 2019 levels. Even more interesting, it's not just big spenders driving casino revenue anymore. Regular tourists are contributing more, and experts from Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase predict that gaming revenue may return to pre-pandemic levels and even exceed them, reaching 110% of 2019 figures by next year.
"The tourism bureau has urged hotel industry venues to optimise measures to cope with peak passenger flow," said the Macau government in a statement.
“More than 21 million passengers will travel by air during the holiday period,” said Jin Junhao, a deputy director at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, at a briefing in Beijing last month. Just domestically, there will be around 14,000 domestic flights a day, according to the regulator.
“Air ticketing data also show that there has been an increase in bookings made by solo travelers and couples, something for tour operators, hoteliers and retailers to keep in mind this Golden Week,” said Nancy Dai, an analyst with ForwardKeys, in a report last month. “For young travelers, personalized options that meet their needs are becoming even more popular.”