Hong Kong travel bubble could see immediate 13% increase in daily visitor arrivals to Macau: Bernstein

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The launch of a special Blue Health Code scheme for visitors from Hong Kong to enter Macau without undergoing mandatory hotel quarantine could see an immediate 13% boost in average daily visitor arrivals, according to a note from brokerage Bernstein.

The estimate by analysts Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Kelsey Zhu supposes a limit of 3,000 visitors per day from Hong Kong, based on recent reports in local Hong Kong media that a quote will be implemented on bus and ferry trips between the two SARs. Under the quota, 10 buses and 15 ferries would run from Hong Kong to Macau each day, both capped at 50% capacity, meaning around 450 people could enter Macau by bus and 2,500 by ferry.

With average daily visitation to Macau of 22,512 between January and May, this would suggest a 13% increase in visitation at the start of the Blue Health Code scheme.

As reported by IAG, the scheme already agreed to by Macau authorities but without an official launch date – will apply only to those from Hong Kong who are fully vaccinated, allowing them to skip hotel quarantine requirements. They would be allowed to enter Macaus hotels and resorts although but required to remain within designated gaming areas and hotel rooms.

Assuming there are no more COVID-induced setbacks, Bernstein estimates the scheme could get underway as early as 15 July or as late as end-July, depending on how Hong Kongs most recent cases of COVID-19 are classified. There is also no word on how future cases may impact the scheme, but the analysts point to Hong Kongs travel bubble arrangement with Singapore, which allows for a 17-day pause in such instances, as a possible guide.

Despite the uncertainty around any launch of the Blue Health Code, Bernstein is predicting July GGR to show a 50% month-on-month improvement compared with June, which would represent a high-50% decline versus July 2019.

However, much will depend on resumption of travel with China and timing of Hong Kong travel start, the analysts said. The daily quota may be increased in the next phases of reopening but will be subject to mutual agreement between Macau and Hong Kong.