Macau to pay US$35mln to send locals on tours across city

Macau to pay US$35mln to send locals on tours across city

The Macau government says it will spend more than MOP280 million (US$35.1 million) to help over 140 local travel agencies organise 15 package tour “itineraries” targeted at local residents. Some of the tours will have stops at non-gaming facilities inside casino resorts run by the city’s six gaming concessionaires.

The news comes amid an ongoing slump in Macau inbound tourism during the Covid-19 crisis, with no clarity on when something resembling normal trade might resume.

Information on the tours for locals was given by Cheng Wai Tong, deputy director of Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) in comments to local media at a Tuesday press conference. The government’s support scheme is titled “Macao Ready Go! Local Tours”. Under it, Macau residents will be entitled to a government subsidy of MOP280 for every approved tour in which they participate, up to a maximum of two tours, i.e.,a  total per-person subsidy of MOP560.

There are two types of tour: ““community-based” with six itineraries that cover organised trips to local neighbourhoods; and “leisure”, with nine itineraries that involve trips to non-gaming parts of the city’s casino resorts.

The government subsidy per resident per tour will cover costs of sightseeing, catering, tour guide services, and travel insurance. The tours are scheduled to take place between June 22 and September 30. Residents can apply for places on them from Wednesday (June 17) according to the MGTO official.

“This scheme is part of the Macau government’s initiative to revitalise the  local economy…and to revive local tourism business,” said Mr Cheng. He noted Covid-19 had led to a “standstill” for the local travel trade for nearly “half a year”, with the city’s average hotel occupancy rate plummeting to single-digit percentages and leading to the city’s worst-recorded tourism performance, the MGTO official noted.

The tour scheme is sponsored by Macao Foundation, a public agency that receives some funding from Macau taxes on gaming. The tour initiative is co-organised by Travel Industry Council of Macau, the Association of Macao Tourist Agents and the Macau Travel Agency Association. The scheme will see over 750 local tour guides recruited, said Wong Fai, director of the Travel Industry Council of Macau in comments at the Tuesday briefing.

Non-gaming stops

The “leisure” tour category includes itineraries with stops respectively at non-gaming facilities of: Wynn Palace, a casino resort promoted by Wynn Macau Ltd; the backstage area of the House of Dancing Water show at the City of Dreams Macau property of Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd; and at Melco Resorts’ majority-owned Studio City. Other tour stops cover: MGM Cotai, a venue promoted by MGM China Holdings Ltd; Grand Lisboa, a casino hotel run by SJM Holdings Ltd; the new digital interactive art display “teamLab SuperNature Macao” at the Venetian Macao complex run by Sands China Ltd; the Parisian Macao, also run by Sands China; and Galaxy Macau, the flagship Cotai resort of Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.

“The integrated resorts have been very supportive of our initiative,” Mr Cheng remarked.

“For these [organised] tours to the integrated resorts, we will have questionnaires distributed to the participants to understand their level of satisfaction with the itineraries, and then eventually we will have a report concluding how effective this whole scheme works in order to give some reference to our travel sector,” Mr Cheng added.

The MGTO official also said the government expected around “30 to 40” participants per tour group. Special health guidelines – including mask wearing for all participants throughout the tours – will be followed.

The Macau government would further assess the effect of the “Macao Ready Go! Local Tours” scheme, and see if it could be extended to tourists in the same format in the future, Mr Cheng told reporters.

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