Macau buckles under the weight of mainland tourists, considering limiting visitors

Danny Lee March 14, 2013 4:39pm

Macau has been reaping the benefits of an influx of money entering its vast casino resorts in recent years, most of which comes from the deep pockets of wealthy, mainland gambling addicts.

But the millions of mainlanders that pour over the border each year are causing the same problems in Macau that they cause in Hong Kong: namely, they put a severe strain on local infrastructure.

Tourism chiefs have announced a series of measures including looking at a quota on the number of tourists going into the territory and showcasing its less well-known attractions to offset the traffic the most popular attractions get. A review of Macau’s individual visitor scheme is also underway to look at ways of stemming the flow of tourists.

Reducing the number of people who can enter Macau would likely have a positive effect on the border immigration process, which is known for its marathon-long queues. At the moment, 28 million people visit the gambling enclave each year.

Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, the director of Macau Government Tourist Office, told SCMP:

“We will see how we can, through booklets, maps and signage, direct visitors from [the worst crowded] tourist areas to nearby places that are also rich in historical and cultural colour.”

When asked about slapping limits or quotas on the number of tourists, Ms Fernandes refused to comment or rule out the idea, which was initially put forward by the Macau Policy Research Office, a think tank in the territory.

In reaction to the current situation, a new 24-hour border crossing is being proposed to cope with future demand.

The move would alleviate the stress of transiting through Gongbei Port, which has become a key rail hub for high-speed trains to Guangzhou and beyond.

Image: Danny Lee