(Bloomberg) -- Macau is having a tourism boom this Lunar New Year holiday, with visitor numbers surging more than 300% from last year’s Covid Zero-linked doldrums.
The gambling hub reported more than 318,000 visitor arrivals in the first five days of the week-long holiday that started Saturday, according to provisional data from the government.
More than 180,000 came from mainland China, a 155% surge from a year prior, according to data from the Public Security Police Force. There were about 118,000 arrivals from nearby Hong Kong, a 2,700% increase.
“The number of visitors is crazy, it’s a lot. A month ago you can get around Macau so quickly and easily but we don’t have that emptiness anymore,” a taxi driver, who asked to be identified only by his last name of Lou, said in an interview on Wednesday. “We are so happy. It’s terrific for our business.”
Macau’s economy was hammered in 2022 as virus outbreaks and lockdowns in mainland China — the enclave’s biggest source of visitors — led to a tightening of outbound travel, and a crackdown on cross-border gambling saw tougher rules around issuing visas. Along with a dearth of tourists, the city’s casinos, which account for 80% of government income and a third of employment, were also made to shut for almost two weeks in July to get a local flareup under control.
Read more: Macau Casinos Seek Brighter Outlook After Worst Year Since 2004
But the busy streets and packed restaurants in recent days adds to optimism about a Macau revival in 2023. While Macau and China saw relatively easy travel for much of the pandemic, the end of Covid Zero in the mainland eases the risk of disruptions from sudden testing or other requirements. And Macau recently scrapped testing and quarantine for visitors from the rest of the world, including Hong Kong.
Investors are bullish on Macau’s casino sector, pushing a Bloomberg Intelligence gauge of stocks to the highest since 2021. Gross domestic product growth may skyrocket 56.7% in 2023 after plunging 22.4% in 2022, according to the most recently available projections from the International Monetary Fund.
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