Just 1,000 residents were lucky enough to be randomly picked on Monday from 31,333 who applied to go on the coveted “Helicopter Ride Experience”, one of the top attractions in the government-subsidised local tours.
Representatives from three local tourism associations pressed the button in an electronic lot system for the lucky draw held at the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) headquarters, which was witnessed by MGTO Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes and Deputy Director Cheng Wai Tong.
The government and local tourism groups earlier rolled out the “Macao Ready Go! Local Tours” campaign that subsidises local residents to join designated local tours as a way to support the tourism industry which is being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first round, MGTO and tourism groups launched six community-based routes and nine leisure tours. Last week, 10 additional routes were launched for the second round, and one of the new routes includes a helicopter ride.
The route that includes the helicopter ride originally cost MOP 678, and under the subsidy scheme, local residents will only have to pay MOP 398. Last week when applications for the ride began, the registration system crashed, which MGTO later found was caused by a travel agency via plug-in. The agency was penalised by barring it from taking part in the programme for 14 days.
Due to the popularity of the route, a lucky draw was implemented for 1,684 residents.
Of the 1,000 lucky applicants, the first 792 have two quotas to join the ride, and the other 208 applicants will be put on a waiting list, so that they can take up the place if other applicants give up. The lucky applicants will be contacted individually by their travel agencies.
Chopper rides to start on Friday
Since the first helicopter tour will start on Friday, participants will have to confirm the tour date, names of participants, and pay their tour fees at their designated travel agencies by tomorrow. If application requirements are incomplete before 6 p.m. tomorrow, their spots will be transferred to applicants on the waiting list.
Each helicopter has 12 seats, which will be assigned by helicopter staff upon arrival. A window seat will be offered to each pair of participants, but due to safety reasons, passengers aged between two and 12, or above 65 will not be allowed to occupy window seats. If the helicopter ride is cancelled due to severe weather conditions or technical difficulties, the task force in charge of the programme will work with the helicopter provider to come up with a new tour date.
Meeting reporters after the electronic draw, Senna Fernandes was asked if MGTO will consider introducing a third round of the “Macao Ready Go! Local Tours” campaign. She replied that the first two rounds have been well received by the public as more than 100,000 residents have signed up for the local tours, breathing life into Macao’s tourism industry which has been hit hard by COVID-19.
“MGTO will be happy to discover and introduce new themes, as well as cooperate with different service providers to plan future tour routes for residents,” she said, pointing out that her office has plans for tours in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) but whether the tours could be launched would depend on the epidemic situation.
“They [the GBA tours] are not ready to launch now because we don’t want the tourism sector to take up nucleic acid test (NAT) quotas when there are still not enough for people with essential travel needs. When there are enough NAT quotas to satisfy the demand, then they would go to the tourism sector,” she explained.