It’s not like anyone enjoys continuing to dredge up the issues caused by COVID-19, but the statistics still have to be revealed in order to bring the larger picture into focus. Macau’s casino and hospitality segments took a massive hit last year because of the global pandemic, with the city coming to a virtual standstill for most of the year. Things started to tick upward in December, albeit slightly, and there was a little more activity than what had been seen in months. While it certainly wasn’t enough to turn things around and predictions for this year indicate continued distress, Macau’s hotels saw an average occupancy rate of 53.1% last month, 9.2% more than what it was just a month earlier. However, that figure carries a huge red asterisk that skews the results drastically.
December gave Macau’s hotels their best month since last January, when the average occupancy was 79.4%. That was just as the true nature of the threat caused by COVID-19 was starting to be understood. It didn’t take long for health officials around the world to slam on the breaks and bring entire industries to a grinding halt. What was initially expected to be just a momentary break that would potentially last a couple of months has turned into a major nightmare for businesses everywhere.
Macau’s casinos reported gaming revenue of $978 million in December, which was almost 66% lower than it was a year earlier. However, like the hotel activity, it was the best month since last January. It was also a 16% improvement over what was recorded in November. However, the improvements in the two are not completely related. In December, according to Macau’s figures, there were 35,100 hotel rooms available – 3,900 fewer than there had been in January. This alters the results in favor of improved performance, but it still looks good on paper.
The average occupancy for five-star hotels in Macau settled at 51.9% in December, 41.4% less than it was a year earlier. Four- and three-star hotels averaged 56.8% and 63.4%, respectively, with both losing over 30% of the business they had enjoyed in December 2019. In total, 578,000 check-ins were recorded last month; however, many of these were Macau residents.
Visitors from mainland China accounted for 492,100 guests in December, a year-on-year drop of 40%. According to the data, 60,600 hotel guests were registered as residents of Macau, which was 15.7% higher than it was a year earlier. There was no explanation for the increase; perhaps it was simply an opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery during forced border closures.
As an indication of how devastating COVID-19 has been to Macau, the average occupancy rate for the city’s hotels across all of last year was in the gutters. 28.6% doesn’t come close to allowing hotels to stay effectively operational and represents a 62.2% loss compared to the previous year.