Guest speakers and audience members in Sunday’s Macau Forum criticised the government for failing to address the negative side effects caused by an increasingly large number of tourists visiting the city, namely mainlanders.
Guest speaker lawmaker Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong said Macau ’s carrying capacity to receive tourists has reached the limit while fellow speaker Macau Travel Industry Council Vice President Leng Sai Vai said the government had still not come up with measures to encourage tourists to visit alternative parts of the city.
The weekly open-air debate programme in Areia Preta Park is hosted by government broadcaster TDM.
Sunday’s focus was on whether the number of tourists exceeded Macau’s carrying capacity and what the government should do about the city centre being overcrowded with tourists especially during mainland holidays.
Ng said, according to The Macau Post Daily, that the capacity to receive tourists could be assessed in two ways – one is about facilities and infrastructure such as hotels, casinos, border checkpoints and roads, while the other is about whether the number of tourists affects locals’ daily lives.
Kuok said that- concerning Ng’s first point – Macau’s number of tourists still had not exceeded its carrying capacity. “So far no casinos have said they can’t accept any more tourists”, he said.
Kuok acknowledged, however, that regarding Ng’s second point the number of tourists had already reached its limit. “The development of tourism should have benefitted citizens, but now it just reduces locals’ space”, he said.
Kuok pointed out that the many mainlanders go on holiday during the Chinese New Year and the National Day holiday periods. He said he hoped the central government could implement policies so that employees in the mainland are given annual leave so that they can choose when they take their holidays.
Ieong Wan Chong, professor from the One Country Two Systems Research Centre of the Macau Polytechnic Institute (IPM), acknowledged that Macau is now almost close to the maximum limit of tourists it can take.
Ieong said that the mainland’s individual visit scheme had boosted the local economy considerably over the years so it was not proper to reduce the scheme. He suggested the government should study how to raise Macau ’s tourism carrying capacity. He also called for the government to target visitors other than mainlanders in its tourism promotions overseas.
Guest speaker Patrick Lo Tsun Pong, a researcher from the Tourism Research Centre of the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), said his centre had studied Macau ’s carrying capacity to receive tourists every year since 2004. He said the latest figure for 2012 showed that the capacity stood at 82,000 tourists per day which is equivalent to nearly 30 million per year.
Lo said that the figure showed that the current number of tourists does not exceed the city’s tourism carrying capacity. He said the number of tourists coming to Macau varied day by day over the year. He suggested that the government should study how to encourage tourists to come to Macau on different days throughout the year.
Lo also suggested that the government encourages tourists to visit different sightseeing spots in addition to the frequently visited ones around the city centre.
Leng said that it is not proper to restrict the number of mainland tourists using the individual visit scheme, bearing in mind that a number of casino-hotel projects are expected to be completed in 2016 with the aim of attracting more tourists.
The government should study how to raise Macau ’s capacity to receive tourists instead of simply reducing the size of individual visit scheme, Leng said.
Adding that the government should come up measures to divert tourists to different places from around the city centre, “Some old quarters are few with people, which makes shops there cannot benefit from booming tourism”, he said.
The majority of members of the audience who spoke in the forum said that Macau should not adopt a negative approach to the overcrowding issue, for instance proposing to limit the number of mainland tourists. Some of them said that it is not appropriate if someone in Macau copies activists in Hong Kong and launches a campaign to show disrespect to mainland tourists.
They said that Macau is a tourism city where tourism is vitally important to the economy and should always give tourists a warm welcome.(macaunews)