Macau Welcomed 1.6M Guests in February, Best Month Since COVID-19 Pandemic

Macau last month was the busiest it’s been since COVID-19 arrived on the global stage in early 2020.

Macau visitor arrivals casino revenue China COVID-19
Pedestrians walk the Cotai Strip in Macau on Feb. 22, 2023. Macau welcomed almost 1.6 million people to the casino hub in February 2023, the enclave’s highest monthly visitor mark since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image: Bloomberg)

Data supplied Friday by the local government’s Statistics and Census Bureau revealed that more than 1.59 million visitors traveled to Macau last month. The visitor total represented a 14% improvement from January when about 1.4 million people visited the casino enclave.

February 2023 was 143% busier than February 2022 when only about 655,500 people ventured into the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Macau has been exceedingly busy since China President Xi Jinping ended his controversial “zero-COVID” policy in late November. After the Chinese Communist Party leader said lockdowns and consequential restrictions would no longer be levied in response to new COVID-19 outbreaks, life in the world’s most populated country has begun to return to a sense of normal.

Xi’s terminating zero-COVID allowed Chinese people to more easily move about the mainland and China’s two SARs.

Group tours to Macau from the mainland, which had been suspended for more than three years, resumed in early February. China’s Individual Visit Scheme (IVS), which allows mainlanders to obtain the necessary documents to travel to Macau easily over the internet, has also since resumed. Electronic visas had also been on hold since early 2020.

Rebound Rally

Macau casinos are finally seeing some pent-up demand flow to their gaming floors. The six gaming firms won $1.43 billion in January and $1.28 billion in February — both monthly files exceeding the consensus expectation among analysts.

Though provinces and local cities are free to determine their own ongoing pandemic response policies after Xi said the national government would step aside, Macau is showing no signs of reversing course. With its borders open to all of China, and foreigners also now with easy access, Macau’s gaming industry hopes to continue with its gaming rally.

Visitor numbers are becoming more important to the overall health of the local gaming industry after Xi’s central government cracked down on VIP junket operators. Those touring groups had, for many years prior to the pandemic, kept Macau’s high-roller rooms occupied. In exchange for bringing the VIPs to Macau, the casinos shared some of the associated gaming income with the tour facilitator.

Macau’s junket industry today is only a shell of its former self. Macau casinos are now focused more on the general public, which only intensifies the importance of the region’s monthly visitor numbers.

Best Month Since Pandemic

Macau casino floors were busier last month than they’ve been in years. The approximately 1.59 million travelers who were processed through the border gates in February 2023 was the highest monthly tally since January 2020.

Still, Macau has a way to go to reach its pre-pandemic visitor numbers. In February 2019, the enclave counted more than 3.5 million travelers.

Local officials in the region expect visitor arrivals to further increase in March 2023. Representatives from the Macau Government Tourism Office said this week that they expect about 60,000 daily visitors this month for a rough March estimate of 1.86 million guests.

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