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Macau officials lobby Beijing for greater travel opening

Senior Macau officials have been busy lobbying the Chinese government for a further easing of travel restrictions to enable more visitation to Macau during two key political gatherings in Beijing.

The officials were in Beijing for the annual session of China's rubber-stamp parliament the National People's Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

During the event, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng gave an interview to a major Chinese news agency suggesting that Macau deserved more tourism.

“Because we have done a good job of preventing the pandemic, friends from mainland China can come to Macau [to travel],” he said in a video interview published by China News Service and picked up by Lusa.

Mainland Chinese have been able to return to Macau since Sept. 23, but the travel restrictions are onerous, including a negative PCR test. Also, China has not resumed the issuance of e-visas, which is causing bottlenecks and hindering a more meaningful recovery to visitation.

There was a further setback in late January after Beijing shut down several of its cities due to renewed Covid clusters, as a result, the key Chinese New Year period was slower than had been initially hoped. However, the last two days of the holiday improved.

Macau's economy, with its heavy reliance on gaming tourism, has been one of the worst hit in the world due to the impact of the pandemic, with gross domestic product falling 56.3 percent last year. Its borders remain closed to visitors from outside Mainland China.

Also this week, 12 deputies from Macau called for the reinstatement of electronic processing of individual visit scheme visas as quickly as possible - something analysts aren't expecting for several more months.

According to a Chinese language newspaper cited by Lusa, the deputies called for  “convenient arrangements for residents of the interior of China to apply online for Macau Individual Visas visas and for the application of self-service and immediate issuance of on-site visas with immigration authorities.”

They also call for the resumption of group tours.

The recovery in Macau's gross gambling revenue has been slow and lead primarily by the premium mass segment. Analysts have noted that the mass grind will not return without the resumption of group visas.

In a further lobbying effort, Alex Lao Nga Wong a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), tabled a motion urging that the requirement for a negative Covid certificate be waived for those who can prove they have been vaccinated.

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