It is interesting how fortune changes and predictions fail in the Year of the Rat. The year started with caution as COVID-19 outbreak began to wreak havoc in China.
By January 25, the first day of the Chinese New Year, the devastating power of the bats over the Rat had become clear. For Macau’s casinos, a 15-day shutdown was just the beginning of a long nightmare. Visitor numbers to Macau and casino gaming revenue plummeted as weeks passed.
When good news came in August and September in the form of the resumption of the Individual Visitors Scheme, many rejoiced. But hopes were dashed when October’s gaming revenue and visitor numbers were much lower than expected. With December approaching, however, all figures seem to reflect an improving business trend.
As we approach the end of the Year of the Rat, there is greater optimism. Mainland Chinese cities are already in full recovery mode, despite pockets of coronavirus cases.
There are positive takes from the past year. For one, Macau’s new government performed exceptionally well under pressure and putting measures in place swiftly while injecting confidence in the marketplace.
Our residents, local businesses and concessionaires had also shown great resilience in the past year, working together to overcome their differences during such difficult times. Recovery is currently in sight, and that’s partly because everyone played their role. This will sell well to our prospective visitors in the coming months. I am thus hopeful as we approach the Year of the Ox and as vaccines become widely available.
With the pending renewal of Macau’s casino gaming concessionaires in 2022, many fundamental changes may occur by late 2021 and early 2022 as operators hail to the preferred “directions” of the government. Apart from the Macau government, local tourism and gaming executives are currently still contemplating how best to move forward.
Many have hoped that the Year of the Ox will see a return of visitor arrival numbers and gross gaming revenue to pre-Rat level. Is it possible? Yes, I believe we will but at a fraction.
*Desmond Lam is a Professor in Integrated Resort and Tourism Management and the Director of Accreditations at the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau. A life member of Clare Hall (University of Cambridge), Desmond is a recipient of several awards including the Emerging Leader trophy at the 2016 Asia Gaming Awards.