Crisis in Portuguese trade and catering in Macau worsens without Hong Kong market

“We were thus reduced to customers and good friends from Macau and, also, to those who come to us, droppers from the continent”, from the interior of China, explained the owner of Cool-Thingz & PortugueseSpot, now that a year since the territory recorded the first case of covid-19.

The Portuguese-run trade and restaurants in Macau are experiencing a crisis motivated by the pandemic that is being exacerbated, above all, by the disappearance of the Hong Kong market, businessmen in the sector warned Lusa.

“Our customers from Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and [Island] Taiwan [Taiwan], who arrived via Hong Kong, have disappeared. Our Hong Kong customers have also stopped coming. We keep in touch with many of them waiting for better days ”, lamented Manuela Salema, who manages a space dedicated to the sale of Portuguese products in the old part of the island of Taipa.

“We were thus reduced to customers and good friends from Macau and, also, to those who come to us, droppers from the continent”, from the interior of China, explained the owner of Cool-Thingz & PortugueseSpot, now that a year since the territory recorded the first case of covid-19, but for about seven months without identifying any contagion, making it one of the safest places in the world to control the pandemic.

“The SME Support Plan [Small and Medium Enterprises] helped us to face some of the heavier fixed costs (…). The Workers 'Pecuniary Plan and the Companies' Pecuniary Plan were also welcome. On the other hand, the two phases of the Consumer Subsidy Plan undoubtedly boosted demand, ”he added, in a reference to the Macau Government's extraordinary financial assistance directed at the population and SMEs in the face of the crisis caused by the pandemic.

“We look forward to new support measures being taken by the Administration with some anxiety. The crisis is great and its duration, with no end in sight, continues over time and increases the difficulties ”, concluded Manuela Salema.

Nearby, the owner of the Portuguese restaurant A Petisqueira doesn't have a better scenario to describe it.

“The majority of our clientele came from Hong Kong, between 65 and 70%,” said Eusébio Tomé.

"And others arrived via Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan or Singapore international airport," said the Portuguese businessman.

On the other hand, part of the clientele was also from mainland China, but who had other circuits, he said: “They went to Hong Kong, as a family, to Disney [land], for example, and then they took a leap to Macau, it is not the same market as the Chinese who come from the mainland directly to Macau and which casinos pick up directly from buses to spend money for 'resorts' ”.

Accounts made in 2020, without revealing any major changes earlier this year, the Hong Kong market will have stolen between 65 to 70% of customers, he said.

In general terms, Hong Kong used to be “the main market in Macau,” recalled game analyst Ben Lee.

The consultant specialist IGamix stressed, however, that “when China opened its gates, visitors from Hong Kong were replaced” by those arriving from mainland China.

Something that, moreover, happened both in the domestic and international VIP [big bettors] segment ”, he added.

Macau, however, managed to maintain some attractiveness in the non-gambling segment with the other special Chinese administrative region, given the proximity, as it is about an hour by ferry or the new bridge. And especially in some niche markets ranging from catering to small businesses, especially the most specialized and offering the most distinctive products.

Despite the difficulty of quantifying the revenue contribution of Hong Kong residents, in the game alone, Lee estimated it to be somewhere around 9% in the pre-covid period.

The crisis caused by the pandemic forced the Macau Government to move forward in 2020 with an unprecedented extraordinary aid and tax benefits plan aimed at the population and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Macau has not recorded any cases for about seven months, it has been almost ten months without identifying local contagions and without accounting for any deaths or infections among health professionals.

The covid-19 pandemic caused more than two million deaths and almost 100 million infected people worldwide.

The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China, with Macau being one of the first territories in the world to be affected by the pandemic.

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