Macau Considering Resuming E-Visas for Travel from China
Officials in Macau are considering allowing e-visa’s again for individuals based in mainland China.
Macau relies on tourism to maintain its economy. As a gambling mecca, the area has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, Macau has experienced a huge decrease in travel due to the pandemic. The region shutdown travel and also created restrictions that anyone who was allowed to come in, would quarantine for an extended period of time. Because of its due diligence, Macau has been able to keep the virus away. Officials are now ready to welcome people back in and hope that mainland China will soon restore the e-visa process so they can begin seeing travelers once again.
Individual Visit Scheme (IVS)
In January 2020, mainland China decided to stop electronic IVS applications due to the onset of the pandemic. The change was made to stop people from the mainland traveling to areas like Hong Kong and Macau. Residents who wanted to travel to Macau must apply in person. The process is taking around two weeks time to complete.
With the resumption of e-visa’s, travelers would be able to receive a permit in one day. This would cut down on wait times, so people will be more willing to travel to Macau from the mainland. Macau Government Tourism Office director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes commented on the issue, stating they are fighting for the resumption of online service so that the need for in-person signups is no longer an issue.
Macau took great create to ensure safety for its residents as well as travelers during the pandemic. Because of the tight borders in 2020, the region only saw 48 cases of the virus and there have been no deaths associated with COVID-19.
International travel was stalled in 2020, which led areas like Macau to see a huge dip in visitors. In 2019, the region had over 39 million visitors. Last year, that number dropped to an astonishing 5.9 million. Gross gaming revenues were down by just under 80%.
For Macau to reach a state of recovery, IVS must return. The casinos in Macau are the main driver to the economy and without visitors, operations and revenues stall. Mainland China is responsible for the majority of visitors to the region. Just two years ago, the mainland brought in over 70% of travelers.
Gaming analysts say that online processing of IVS is essential to seeing travel resume to pre-COVID numbers in Macau. While the region is prepared to take in visitors, everyone must quarantine upon arrival unless they are from a certain area.
Visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are allowed to enter as long as they can provide a recent negative nucleic acid test. They must also complete two to three weeks of supervised quarantine. The need for quarantine stems from the continued threat of COVID-19. There are now new strains which can lead to more infections if officials are not careful.
Analysts have predicted that visitor numbers will recover this year. As the vaccine process is completed and IVS is expedited again via digital processes, travelers should return. Some are suggesting that operators in Macau should be focusing less on the number of visitors and more on the length of stay.
Increasing the attractions in the region and offering package tours could help to bring in travelers that will stay and spend more. This would lead to a higher earnings potential. Only time will tell if the visa process will be digitalized once again and if it will actually bring in more visitors from the mainland.
Macau has to see some change in visitor totals if it wants to recover fully economically.