Much has been made over the last year or so about the decline in visitors to Macau but a recent boost in visitors should provide a reprieve. Macau, known as one of the gambling capitals of the world, saw some good numbers during Golden Week, the semi-annual Chinese national holiday.
The figures have been quite surprising as this type of foot traffic was not expected, but 969,254 visitors came from mainland China to Macau last week, which was up about 7% from the previous year's Golden Week. It was a welcome spark as Macau has mostly been in the news for missing targets and seeing consistent declines.
Golden Week lasts for a full week in China and everyone gets the time off. This type of holiday actually happens twice a year in China as the first occurs right around the Chinese New Year (Chinese Lunar New Year Golden Week) in January or February, and then there is the second week, which is the Chinese National Golden Week, which usually lands around October 1st. It's the most popular time of year for Chinese people to travel, and clearly many of them opted for the short trip to Macau.
It's possible that the increase in traffic came as a result of the strategic pivot by the casinos in Macau. They've learned that - like the casinos in Las Vegas - they can't operate solely by living off of gambling revenue, so they've done their best to make sure they have a little something for everyone. At the head of this new movement are a couple of new hotel/casino/spa facilities that recently opened up in Macau, like the Wynn Palace and the Parisian from Sands China Ltd.
The Wynn Palace, of course, is owned by Wynn Resorts, and while it has a casino it also features an eight-acre performance lake, gondolas, and lots of places to dine and shop. The Parisian opened up a month after the Wynn Palace in September and its biggest feature is the Eiffel Tower. Sands China decided to build an Eiffel Tower half the scale as the real one. Hotels are doing everything they can to adapt to their customers and offer more than just gambling.
But judging by some of the other travel numbers, it's too early to say whether Macau saw an increase as a result of the improvements or whether more Chinese people decided to travel at this time. Macau wasn't the only destination that saw an increase in visitors as Hong Kong got an extra 1.2 million during the holiday week. Taking that into account it's too early to consider this a trend, but it is definitely encouraging as Macau looks to keep their reputation as the gambling center of the world.
Macau has been the subject of a lot of government regulation over the last couple of years, which has forced them to adjust and find new ways to bring in visitors. It looks like the changes are having an impact, but they'd sure love to see the government ease up on some of the restrictions so that they can get back to producing the numbers they once did.