Last update: 01 May 2023, 02:02 HST
The surge in visitors comes after China and its special administrative region of Macau lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in January. (Image: Reuters)
More than 100,000 visitors arrived in the ancient Portuguese city every day on Saturday and Sunday
Hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese visitors descended on Macau’s world’s largest gambling hub for the Labor Day holiday, crowding its narrow cobblestone streets and placing bets in its glitzy casinos.
The surge in visitors comes after China and its special administrative region of Macau lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in January, allowing visitors to travel to Macau for the first time in more than three years.
More than 100,000 visitors arrived in the ancient Portuguese city every day on Saturday and Sunday, local media reported, citing government statistics, compared to 60,000 a day recorded in previous days.
In the pastel-colored streets surrounding the historic sites of Senado Square and the Ruins of St. Paul, hundreds of visitors crowded side by side to take photos and sample Macanese delicacies including egg tarts and meat dried.
Macau is the top destination for Chinese travelers in Asia from April 17 to May 7, according to travel data firm ForwardKeys, with bookings up 11% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 against a drop of 32% in nearby Hong Kong.
Coco Li, a 42-year-old woman from Hubei province who was visiting her husband, said they chose to come to Macau because travel rules had eased.
Li said she plans to buy cosmetics, handbags and clothes and “go to the casino and play for fun, because we still have to control ourselves.”
Macau’s government has been promoting its cultural heritage, food and entertainment to mainland visitors over the past year.
Authorities want to diversify Macau, which depends on casinos for more than 80% of its government revenue and has imposed tough new regulations on its six casino operators.
The influx of visitors comes as the densely populated territory grapples with a severe labor shortage.
Hotel occupancy is expected to reach around 90%, with some full for the holiday season, according to industry analysts.
Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd said its Raffles hotel would open in the second half of 2023, a delay from earlier plans to open in the first half.
“We have been actively working with the Macau government on our labor needs,” the company said. “For our existing resorts, we are effectively full for the upcoming May vacation.”
Sands China Ltd said staffing constraints impacted the number of rooms available in the first quarter, but the situation improved somewhat in March.
“The company expects this to improve further in the current quarter, so the current outlook is optimistic,” he said.
In the meantime, some travelers are struggling to find accommodation.
Outside the Venetian resort of Sands, a 40-year-old man surnamed Wang from Shanxi province who traveled frequently to Macau before the pandemic, was shocked by the crowds.
“I couldn’t even book a room, so I just have to wait and see if the casino can give me a room as a freebie,” he said.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)