The local government hopes to launch Macao tour group itineraries involving Hengqin by the end of August, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture said during Sunday’s Legislative Assembly (AL) plenary meeting.
Launched a month ago, the “Macao Ready Go! Local Tours” are a government-subsidized scheme to encourage Macau residents to get to know their home city better and to support the business of tour guide operators. Additional experience packages for Macao citizens include discounted hotels, cheaper entry fees for entertainment facilities and more.
Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes wants to extend the popular local tours program to cover sites and activities on Hengqin, the neighbouring island administered by Zhuhai municipal authorities. Senna Fernandes estimated the programs would launch by the end of August.
The MGTO has already discussed with Hengqin’s authority the feasibility of a Hengqin-Macao tourism program after the visa policies are normalized, according to Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U.
Starting 15 July, Guangdong province resumed issuing all types of non-tourism visas to its citizens. However, the timeline for the resumption of travel endorsements, including the Individual Visit Scheme, remains unknown.
The local government is pessimistic about international tourists amid the COVID-19 pandemic because the virus is still spreading in most overseas jurisdictions.
“Macao has been controlling the pandemic really well, but other regions have not. Because of this, we don’t have the conditions to open the city to visitors from other countries. Even if we operate flight services, ferry services and bus services, we don’t think international visitors will come,” said Secretary Ao Ieong.
According to Senna Fernandes, before there is an available vaccine, international travellers will bear the cost of undertaking a COVID-19 test upon arrival. The prices in different countries may discourage overseas individuals from travelling to Macao.
As of 29 July, the Macao Ready Go! Local Tours project has registered the participation of more than 105,000 attendees. Some 445 tour guides are working for these programs. A survey involving 7,300 respondents showed that 86 per cent of the interviewees are satisfied by the routes and guide services.
The local government has been advertising these tourism products on Macao Ready Go, a platform to disseminate such offers, as well as on TikTok, Xiaohongshu and many other popular apps. These promotions are applicable to both visitors and Macao local residents.
Because of these promotions, Ao Ieong believes that “once the visa application process is resumed, more visitors will come.”
The secretary also commented that, contrary to earlier reports, the government currently has no plan to launch a promotion program with hotels for Macao local residents.