Macau’s flight connectivity to the rest of the world is increasing, following the easing of COVID curbs, but an industry insider says that current ticket prices are discouraging Macau’s travel agencies and depressing visitor demand.
Numerous airlines have already announced an increase to their destinations and flight frequency to Macau, focused on key routes such as those to Bangkok, Seoul, Manila and throughout Southeast Asia. Most recently, South Korean low-cost airline Fly Gangwon met with the operator of Macau’s International Airport to arrange a new Jeju-Macau service as early as next month.
But, despite the slow ramp-up of flights, the head of the Association of Industry and Commerce Federations of Macau notes that actual round-trip tickets to popular destinations from Macau are much higher than neighboring Hong Kong, making it impractical to organize international tours or seek out more international visitors.
“The Macau-Tokyo round-trip flights cost now about MOP5,800 ($720), when the same flight from Hong Kong is about MOP1,000 ($128),” notes Ben Leng.
“The difference in price just can’t be accepted by consumers,” points out the association head – exemplifying that the routes to Seoul and Osaka are in a similar situation, suppressing demand.
Speaking to AGB, Leng notes that the high prices are due to carrier capacity shortages – a factor which, until resolved, will continue to limit the capacity of local travel agencies to source group tours from abroad.
“Costs are still a large factor for travelers to Macau, with many choosing to take the ferry to the Hong Kong International Airport instead of flying to/from Macau”.
While the current situation is not ideal, carriers are slowly increasing their destinations and frequencies. Fly Gangwon’s new services will link Macau to the Gangwon district in northeast South Korea, with another link to Incheon International airport.
Meanwhile, low-cost carrier AirAsia resumed flights to Macau last week, with its inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau. The Macau-Bangkok route already resumed on February 18th – and has proved highly popular, while its Manila flight will resume on March 2nd.
At the same time, Macau’s flagship carrier Air Macau plans to increase its flight connections and frequency to various destinations in Southeast and East Asia.
By mid-March, the Macau International Airport Company says that Thai Lion Air and Thai Vietjet Air will launch three to four weekly flights to Bangkok.
Hainan Airlines and Air Macau will launch or resume three weekly flights to Haikou and Singapore in mid-March and at the end of the month, respectively.
Meanwhile, Cambodia Airways is planning to resume flight services between Macau and Phnom Penh in the future. And a Maldivian airline has shown interest in launching a route between the Maldives and Macau in the third quarter of 2023.
As part of a push to increase destinations, the Macau airport company is actively seeking out further carrier partners, at a forum in Chiang Mai last week even approaching Turkish Airlines on a possible Macau-Melbourne link in the future.
CAM notes that “in the post-epidemic period, airlines are actively seeking opportunities to diversify their air services and packages”.
And as Macau has announced multiple times, it needs to procure more international travelers – not only for its tourism offerings, but also as part of its mandate for casino operators under their new licenses.
The age-old adage stays true – build it and they will come. In this case, it’s already built, Macau just needs to make sure it’s economically viable and convenient to schedule a trip to Macau.