Tourism Carrying Capacity of Macao 2007 Study

Commissioned by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao S.A.R. and conducted by the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), a study was completed which aimed at providing reference estimates on the optimal social carrying capacity of Macao’s tourism industry and suggest whether the existing tourism facilities and services are adequate to cope with the rapid growth in visitor arrivals.


The survey was divided into 2 parts: The first part consisted of questionnaire interviews, on 44 selected days of 2007 which covered weekdays, weekends and days within the Golden Week periods. Both local residents and visitors were asked to express their perception on crowdedness and satisfaction with environmental quality, local transportation, food & beverage and retail services quality and waiting time, and border clearance performance. A total of 5158 residents and 5120 visitors were sampled. The interview locations included Leal Senado Square, Portas do Cerco, A-Ma Temple, Ruins of St.Paul, Cunha Street, Horta E Costa, Mesquita and New Yaohan. The second part was to collect data and information from government departments and stakeholders in several tourism-related sectors to estimate their full-load capacity. The study covered 8 main services and facilities, namely hotel accommodation, restaurants and dining, buses, taxis, ferries, border clearance, tourist attractions and inbound tour handling.


Results from the first part revealed that local residents were generally dissatisfied with the environment and local transportation, and their perception of crowdedness became more intensive with increasing number of visitors. At the same time, visitors had similar perception of crowdedness. Nonetheless, they usually gave a more generous rating than residents to most of the indicators studied.


It was found that both residents and visitors became less than satisfied with the crowded surroundings and gave generally lower ratings to the services and facilities when daily average incoming visitors reached a level of 75,537. With increasing number of daily average visitors, residents became more sensitive to crowdedness

and issues with local transportation, while visitors became more sensitive to crowdedness, border clearance and environment quality.


By using the technique of linear regression, it was estimated that the optimal social carrying capacity of Macao ranged from 69,000 to 79,000 daily visitors.


By classifying the visitors according to their place of origin, it was found that visitors from the mainland generally had better evaluations of all services and facilities except border clearance, compared with those from Hong Kong, Taiwan Province and other places. Also, group travellers had better impression about crowdedness and local transportation than the Free Individual Travellers (FITs).

Information gathered for the second part revealed that among the 8 facilities studied, namely hotel accommodation, restaurants and dining, buses, taxis, ferries, border clearance, tourist attractions and inbound tour handling, 6 of them could not meet the optimal social carrying capacity. Only restaurants and dining, and border clearance (when all 7 entry points were taken into consideration) stayed above the range. This may serve as a signal that certain sectors may need to enlarge their operation scale to meet the optimal level. However, they may face various challenges including geographical, capital and manpower limitations.


As a conclusion, it was found that residents and visitors were sensitive to crowdedness and quality of tourism services and facilities as visitor arrival increased. Government departments and stakeholders may wish to focus on these issues. In view of Macao’s current limitations, one important way of sustaining tourism development is to provide better service to visitors, rather than continuously looking for new markets. Attention should also be given to better management of industry operations and facilities, manpower training, and professional transportation and town planning.

Policy Research on Development and Carrying Capacity of Macao Tourism Industry

Commissioned by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao S.A.R. and coordinated by the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), a policy research on tourism development and carrying capacity of Macao was compiled in November 2007.


In this research, the Tourism Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) was invited by IFT to join the research team. In June 2007, team members from IFT and CASS jointly conducted a series of interviews with different local government departments and tourism stakeholders and had on-site observations at various tourist attractions. Based on primary and secondary data, CASS compiled the final report to provide suggestions for the strategic development of Macao’s tourism industry.


The report pointed out that Macao’s tourism industry currently enjoys a number of opportunities and strengths because of her unique background. Firstly, Macao not only enjoys a strategic location in the East Asian area where the highest potential economic growth can be found, but also profits from solid support from the Central Government as an independent policy-making authority (special administrative region). Secondly, Macao not only understands how to capitalise on its tourism and gaming industry to attract more tourists, but is also aware of the risk of over-concentration in these main sectors. Therefore, using Las Vegas as a reference, Macao is exploring other diversified tourism products such as exhibition, entertainment, cuisine and leisure to make tourism development sustainable. Also, with these developments and benefits of new policies such as CEPA, Macao can now attract more tourists from Mainland and other parts of the world.


However, when focusing on and enjoying the strengths and opportunities, Macao should still monitor the potential threats and weaknesses in its tourism development. For the gaming industry, its business risk and negative effects on the local community cannot be ignored. Macao also needs to face competition from other regions in

Asia Pacific. Locally, limitation in land area and human resources stands in the way of tourism industry development. Finally, one should not overlook the changing relationship between Mainland and Taiwan province, as any change will trigger off various impacts on Macao’s economic and tourism development.


To tackle the mentioned issues and capitalise on the strengths, the report raised different suggestions. From a strategic standpoint, Macao is suggested to diversify its current set of tourism-related industries and look actively for business opportunities by cooperating with neighbouring tourism destinations (e.g. in Pan Pearl River Delta) and attract human and capital resources globally. Also, Macao’s tourism industry would benefit from more environmental and heritage protection.


From a policy angle, Macao needs to have urban planning in place in order to improve urban infrastructure management and property development. Also, Macao could consider establishing a central promoting force (e.g. including departments in the area of economics, culture and tourism) equipped with the necessary human and financial resources to effectively promote Macao abroad to attract more tourists, investment and cooperation opportunities. The promotion could centre on but not limited to Macao’s unique gaming and ex-Portuguese colonial culture.


Based on the fact that Macao has limited human resources, the report suggests that the Government put more effort in education and training to raise workforce quality. Besides that, Macao is suggested to consider establishing a “clean” image, which refers to Macao being an environmentally clean and socially peaceful city. Finally, the Government is advised to place emphasis on tourism-related researches, by inviting foreign experts to team up with local tourism stakeholders and scholars. This will create good conditions for the long-term sustainable development of Macao’s tourism industry