- Typhoon Mujigae hit China during key shopping, gambling season
- Some analysts optimistic Macau saw decent gambling levels
The number of Chinese tourists flocking to Macau and Hong Kong during the Golden Week holidays increased at a slower pace than last year after a typhoon disrupted travel.
Arrivals in Macau from mainland China during the Oct. 1-7 break, officially called the National Day holidays, rose 7.1 percent from last year, when visitations gained 17 percent, according to Macau government data. In Hong Kong, growth in visitations from China decelerated to 2.3 percent from 6.8 percent, according to Hong Kong government data.
Both Macau and Hong Kong had been counting on Golden Week, a key gambling and shopping season, to provide relief from their recent slumps. Gaming revenue in Macau has shrunk for 16 straight months as China’s anti-corruption crackdown keeps high rollers away from the baccarat tables, while retail sales in Hong Kong have been dropping nonstop since March.
Typhoon Mujigae, the strongest October storm to hit the Chinese mainland since 1949, didn’t help. As the typhoon made landfall in southern China on Oct. 4, the number of arrivals in Macau from the mainland fell 16 percent.
Yet optimists remain.
“There’s still pent up demand coming into the market, especially over holiday periods,” Vitaly Umansky, a gaming analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said by phone referring to arrivals in Macau. “It would be a bad indicator if there were no growth or a decline in visitation.”
There are also indications that betting volumes in Macau got off to a “strong start” during Golden Week, according to an Oct. 7 note by Daiwa Securities Group Co.
The picture in Hong Kong may be grimmer. Some retailers there saw sales shrink, sometimes by a double-digit percentage, during the first two days of October, compared with a year earlier, according to the Hong Kong Retail Management Association. And the comparison wasn’t coming off a high base because shops in the city last year were hit by pro-democracy protests that blocked key shopping districts and prompted some stores to shut.
Signs also point toward Macau and Hong Kong losing their luster among Chinese tourists. Though they were the top choices last year, Japan and South Korea became the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists during the first four days of Golden Week, according to a recent Credit Suisse Group AG report.