Macau officials confirmed this week that the enclave’s government is actively working with mainland China administrators to restore the e-visa process for the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS).
Mainland China suspended electronic IVS applications in January of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. China did so in order to prevent its people from traveling to Macau and Hong Kong.
Residents seeking to travel to the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau must currently apply in-person. Processing times are taking as long as two weeks.
E-visa resumption will allow same-day travel permits to Macau to be facilitated.
Mainland visitors have to apply for IVS in-person, so we keep fighting for the resumption of IVS e-visa with the mainland government,” explained Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
Macau greatly tightened its borders last year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Despite neighboring China, where COVID-19 is thought to have originated, Macau has confirmed only 48 total coronavirus cases since the outbreak. There have been no COVID-19-related deaths in the region.
Gamblers, Visitors Needed in Macau
COVID-19 stalled the vast majority of international travel in 2020. As a result, Macau saw visitor arrivals decline from 39.4 million in 2019 to only 5.9 million last year. Gross gaming revenue was down more than 79 percent to $7.53 billion.
IVS resuming to its pre-COVID operational swiftness is crucial to Macau’s recovery. The region’s casinos are the main engine of the enclave’s economy.
Mainland China is responsible for the vast majority of visitors who travel to Macau. Prior to the pandemic, China accounted for 70.8 percent of 2019 visitors.
“The key jump in visitors will come when visa processing switches back to digital and same day, which may take some time. We are not likely to see material alleviation of bottlenecks in the near term,” explained a recent note from Sanford C. Bernstein gaming analysts Vitaly Umansky and Tianjiao Yu.
With a new strain of COVID-19 being confirmed throughout Asia, border restrictions and mandatory quarantines remain in Macau. Currently, only people arriving from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are permitted entry. And those who are able to enter must produce a recent negative nucleic acid test, and then undergo a supervised quarantine that ranges from two to three weeks.
Macau Seeks Longer Stays
Senna Fernandes predicts visitor numbers will recover in 2021. With the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed, and ideally the IVS process expedited by returning to digital, she believes travelers will return to Macau.
However, she says Macau shouldn’t be so focused on total visitor numbers.
“What we should do in the future is to attract visitors to stay longer in Macau, rather than chasing the numbers,” Senna Fernandes explained. “We should increase attractions in Macau, and we hope that package tours from the mainland will be resumed soon.”
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