In spite of the formidable recovery of Macau, the largest gaming hub in the world, its numbers are still behind those of neighbouring Hengqin. In 2009, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China leased parts of Hengqin to Macau, where Macau laws now apply. Tourism in Hengqin revolves mainly around the hugely popular Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park.
Disruptions due to pandemic
One of the primary reasons for the disparity in tourist number is due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. While Macau borders with mainland China were only reopened fully in February 2023, domestic travel remained unrestricted in Hengqin.
Due to relatively unimpeded travel, Hengqin tourism had already recovered partially in the second half of 2020. Compare this to Macau’s recovery in the first half of 2023 which practically had to resume from zero. Just one year ago, in July 2022, Macau reported its worst month on record, with gross gaming revenue falling to 98% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
According to official statistics, Chimelong ocean-themed park in Hengqin welcomed 5.5 million visitors in just the first half of 2023. During the same period, Macau had 11.56 million tourist arrivals, mostly from mainland China and Hong Kong.
The Hengqin Guangdong-Macau In-depth Cooperation Zone was officially established in September 2021. The zone has witnessed major changes since then, including the rail line connecting Hengqin to China’s high-speed rail network. Since the establishment of the Cooperation Zone, Macau’s government now more control over the commercial development of Hengqin. This translates into Macau’s ability to maximize the non-gaming potential of its sister-city.
Gaming operators in Macau are eyeing Hengqin in their efforts to prioritise their commitment to economic diversification and CSR, having committed to invest a minimum of MOP108.7 billion ($14.8 billion) over a 10-year period.
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