The government wants to “control” the number of visitor arrivals but has no intention of reducing or even limiting their number, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng said on Thursday.
Tam made the remark after a meeting of the Tourism Development Committee (CDT), which he chaired, at the Tourist Activities Centre (CAT) in Zape.
The policy secretary overseeing the tourism sector also said the goal of upcoming talks with the central government about the huge number of mainlanders visiting Macau was to improve the so-called Individual Visit Scheme (IVS).
The scheme was launched by the central government in 2003. It allows mainlanders to visit Hong Kong and Macau on an individual basis. Prior to the scheme, mainlanders could only visit the two cities on business visas or in group tours.
Macau recorded 765,323 IVS arrivals last month, down 8.1 percent year-on-year. About 46 percent of all mainland arrivals travelled under the IVS last month.
Tam attended Thursday’s meeting to discuss his intention, which he announced during the Chinese New Year, to speak to various central government ministries about Macau’s tourism carrying capacity and the huge influx of mainlanders visiting the city.
Government broadcaster TDM last week quoted Tam as saying that “there will be a limit, but I can’t tell you the figure.”
Several members of the committee on Thursday expressed concern that a government-imposed reduction in the number of visitor arrivals would lead to a decline in Macau’s tourism earnings.The meeting was open to the media.
Suggestions were made by some members of the committee that rather than limiting the number of tourists, the government should look into creating more parking spaces for tour coaches away from the city centre to redirect tourists to other areas of the city. Others suggested that the government should speed up the construction of new checkpoint facilities at the Cotai-Hengqin border since this could reduce congestion in the peninsula as gamblers would be able to travel straight to the Cotai Strip without having to travel across the city.
Tam replied that while he agreed with a lot of what was said by the members of the government-appointed committee, he would still need to consult the central government before any action can be taken.
After the meeting, Tam told reporters that he could not confirm a date when the local government’s plan to “control” the influx of mainland visitors would get off the ground.
He also said that his talks with the central government were unlikely to take place next month because the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will take place at that time.
He reaffirmed the main point of the discussions with the central government was not to reduce the number of visitors, but to improve various aspects of the IVS, as well as to maintain local residents’ quality of life.
Tam admitted that the business sector was worried about government measures that would reduce or limit the number of visitors. “I understand, for example, that businesspeople want more customers, more tourists,” he said, adding he hoped that more mainland visitor arrivals will enter and exit Macau via the Cotai-Hengqin border checkpoint to reduce heavy congestion at the Barrier Gate checkpoint.
Official statistics released Thursday showed that 40.5 percent of all visitors last month arrived in Macau via the Macau-Gongbei Barrier Gate checkpoint.
Tam also said he hoped that more mainlanders will visit Macau also in the summer and during Christmas and Easter.
While excluding the possibility of an official limit on the number of visitors, Tam told reporters he personally believed that a ceiling of 31 million arrivals – last year’s figure – “perhaps wouldn’t be bad”. (macaunews/macaupost)