Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Ieong U chaired this year’s first plenary meeting of the Macao Tourism Development Committee (commonly known by its Portuguese acronym CDT) held on 19 May. She listened to a range of views on the current situation of Macao’s tourism industry and shared ideas with CDT members on the Macao SAR Government’s recovery plan and the trade’s efforts to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the meeting, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) outlined a strategy to revive tourism.
During the meeting, Secretary Ao Ieong indicated that the pandemic had drastically reduced the number of visitors to Macao in the first four months of 2020. In response, MGTO has held talks with hotels, travel agencies, airlines, ferry operators and other related businesses about creating pathways to recovery.
While MGTO operations will move to the portfolio of the Secretariat for Economy and Finance, tourism is still linked with culture and sport. Secretary Ao Ieong said she hopes Macao can attract more visitors by staging mega sport events and through offering in-depth tours. She also expressed sincere gratitude to the tourism trade for the part it played in providing accommodation for people being kept under medical observation for signs of COVID-19.
The committee was given an up-to-date report on tourism by MGTO. The trend in the number of visitors to Macao has been steeply downward as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and impacts global travel. As a result, the hotel industry in Macao has suffered and average occupancy rates remain low.
MGTO introduced at the meeting its three-stage plan to revive the local tourism industry. First, MGTO will support the tourism sector in its resumption of a series of pre-promotional campaigns to raise awareness of Macao as a tourism destination, domestically and abroad.
In the second stage, depending on the course the pandemic takes, MGTO will introduce promotional measures and, after border-control restrictions are eased, will provide half-day tours, free of charge, for visitors that stay overnight in Macao.
The plan’s third stage will see MGTO create recovery schemes, depending on the progress of the recovery of international markets, that give incentives to airlines, ferry companies, operators of cross-border bus services and other transport enterprises.
In another move to help the trade recover, representatives of the Macao tourism trade and MGTO are working together on the development of local Macao tours and Hengqin Island tours.
Committee members present at the meeting agreed to the recovery strategy. There were also concerns expressed, some of which included the resumption of travel to Macao and visitor flows across the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, industry training, local tours and Hengqin tours.
One CDT member told the committee that the Macao SAR Government should make plans in advance on how to manage border-control measures, in order to support the recovery of the tourism sector if COVID-19 precautions became permanent. It was the member’s view however that safety remains the top priority, ahead of any moves to create preferential measures for the travel trade.
Another CDT member said promoting tours of Macao among residents would raise public awareness of the city’s tourism trade and resources. MGTO said local tours for Macao residents would encourage the trade to develop products with more fresh elements that would attract people living in Macao as well as visitors.
Secretary Ao Ieong thanked the members of the committee for giving their opinions. Authorities in Macao and Guangdong were in close communication, and both governments already recognise each other’s COVID-19-related health code systems, she said. Secretary Ao Ieong urged enterprises in the tourism industry to get ready to welcome visitors sometime in the future.
The CDT members and participants who shared their views at the plenary meeting included Tong Kai Chung, Cheong Chi Man, Wong Fai, Sio Un I, Melinda Chan, Lo Wang Chun, Linda Chen, Fang Liqun, Ma Kin Cheong, Wilfred Wong and Kong Mei Fan.