Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On said Monday that thorough research will be carried out to assess the effect of the mainland’s individual visit scheme on the city’s economic development in the past 10 years, vowing that the scheme will never be allowed to have an adverse impact onresidents’ quality of life.
Chui made the comment when speaking to reporters at the local airport before leaving for Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the first session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) today. Chui will attend the opening as a special guest.
During the trip, Chui will also be meeting senior government officials from Guangdong to recap on last year’s work and lay out new projects for this year, before returning to Macau on Thursday.
In regard to whether the individual visit scheme would be adjusted to prepare for the mainland’s Golden Week holiday in May after hoards of mainland visitors packed the Barrier Gate and the city centre during last month’s Chinese New Year holiday, Chui said that it was not an appropriate time now to come to any conclusions.
“The problem we saw over Chinese New Year is what I believe is a seasonal issue,” Chui was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying. He added that the government’s tourism-related bureaus are reviewing the situation and that he had ordered Secretary for Security Cheong Kuoc Va to find solutions to border management issues to improve the flow of visitors and implement an alert system for the timely dissemination of information.
“The individual visit scheme should not be confused with the problems we had during the Chinese New Year and now is not the time to make conclusive decisions,” Chui said, asking the public to give the government time to recap and research the effects of the individual visit scheme on the local economy over the past 10 years, after which the government would communicate with the mainland authorities on the issue.
“The central government has great support for and pays close attention to Macau’s tourism development and we are also concerned about visitor satisfaction and especially our capacity [to receive visitors], but most importantly it should not affect residents’ quality of life,” Chui said.
Chui explained that the individual visit scheme was one of a string of important measures introduced by the central government to support Macau when the local economy struggled from the SARS outbreak in 2003.
The scheme, which nowadays allows people from 49 cities around the mainland to visit Macau with special permits, raised individual visitor arrivals from the mainland from three million in 2004 to seven million last year, according to Chui.
Before the launch of the individual visitor scheme a decade ago almost all tourists from the mainland were required to join tour groups to visit Macau.(macaunews)