China is to resume issuing tourist visas for visitors to Macau, paving the way for the mass return of Chinese punters to the world’s largest gaming hub after months of losses.
Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, would today begin issuing tourist visas, including individual and group tours, for Chinese residents to travel to Macau, Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Ieong U (歐陽瑜) on Monday in a news briefing.
The move reverses a ban implemented in late January to contain the spread of COVID-19. The resumption of tourist visas could gradually be expanded to the rest of China, Ao Ieong said.
“By resuming Zhuhai visas first, we will monitor the situation and see if we could strive to achieve more convenience for residents in Guangdong or other places to come to Macau,” she said. “Our economy needs tourists.”
The resumption of visas effectively allows for the revival of the gambling enclave whose revenue had been five times that of the Las Vegas Strip before the pandemic, driven largely by Chinese demand.
Without Chinese visitors, Macau’s gaming revenue plunged by more than 90 percent for four consecutive months and operators have been losing US$15 million per day in expenses, Morgan Stanley estimated.
Yesterday’s news caused a Bloomberg gauge of Macau stocks to jump as much as 6.9 percent in morning trading.
In addition to the resumption of visas, a two-week quarantine imposed on Macau travelers upon their return to China would be lifted throughout the country from today, the Chinese Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said in a statement.
Macau’s GDP, heavily reliant on tourism and gaming, shrank 49 percent in the first quarter of this year. Even though casino operators reopened after an unprecedented 15-day shutdown in February, travel curbs meant that tourists and high rollers could not travel there.
The latest moves are a “huge step in the right direction,” Hong Kong-based Citigroup Inc analyst George Choi wrote in a note.
More provinces and cities in Guangdong Province, which account for one-third of Macau’s visitors, could see visa issuance resume in the next few weeks, he said.
However, Sanford C Bernstein analysts led by Vitaly Umansky said that the risk remains that visa issuances could again be suspended if there is a jump in COVID-19 cases.
The coronavirus outbreak has been largely contained in Macau as well as in China, although Hong Kong is seeing a resurgence.
Macau has not found any new COVID-19 cases since late June.
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