Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Cheong U said yesterday that while no final decision about any new measures and policies to improve the so-called “Individual Visit Scheme” (IVS) was made in a meeting with the central government early this week, both the local and central governments agreed that the scheme has to be fine-tuned to ensure that the huge number of visitors during the mainland’s holiday periods won’t impact local people’s lives.
Cheong also said that once the final decision on any changes to the scheme has been made, the details will be announced. He also said that the local government would stay in touch with the central government about the matter. However, the policy secretary could not confirm if the two governments will have regular meetings on the matter in the future.
Cheong on Monday exchanged views on improving the scheme with officials from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council and the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing.
Cheong made the comments yesterday after witnessing a signing ceremony on an agreement to strengthen tourism co-operation among the 11 members of the Pan-Pearl River Delta Co-operation (PPRD, also known as 9+2), at Sands Cotai Central.
According to Cheong, the meeting in Beijing also included officials from Hong Kong, Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes and Public Security Police (PSP) officers.
Macau’s immigration department is run by the PSP. Cheong’s portfolio includes the tourism sector. The gaming sector is overseen by Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen.
When asked by reporters about the meeting, Cheong said that it was just a preliminary discussion and no final decisions had been made. He said that it was still not the right time to reveal any possible changes in the IVS. He said once a final decision has been made, the details would be announced in due course.
Cheong also said that the meeting was aimed at improving the scheme. He said he hoped “any new measures will be able to improve [the scheme] in a way that benefits Hong Kong, Macau and mainland people visiting Hong Kong and Macau.”
Local lawmakers and community leaders have called for a review of the scheme which was implemented in 2003 and a reduction in the number of mainland visitors to the city.
According to Cheong, in Monday’s meeting he briefed central government officials on the latest developments in the local tourism industry and what the local government has done to tackle Macau’s heavily overcrowded tourist spots, especially during mainland holiday periods, such as crowd control measures during Chinese New Year and the introduction of four walking tour routes.
Cheong said that he told the officials about the local government’s ideas about how the local tourism sector should be developed. He said the Macau government was focusing on the quality of services rather than the quantity of tourists. Cheong said the tourism sector should be developed in a way that does not have a negative impact on locals’ daily lives.
Cheong said “no-one expects the number of tourists to greatly exceed [the city’s] receiving capacity or that the number will drop considerably.”
Cheong pledged that the local government will keep listening to locals’ views about the scheme and will pass them on in future meetings with the central government.
When asked if the meeting with the central government about the local tourism sector would become a regular event, Cheong said that the meeting was not a one-off and that communication would continue but whether it would become a regular event had yet to be decided. (macaunews/macaupost)