Tourism, spending up in Hong Kong, Macau after mainland border opening

Tourism and spending are reviving in Hong Kong and Macau as the Lunar New Year holiday spurred a jump in visitors and betting on horse races after pandemic travel restrictions were eased between the two territories and mainland China.

Hong Kong’s Sha Tin racetrack drew a crowd of more than 70,000 on Tuesday. The Chinese New Year races attracted HK$2.06 billion (US$263 million) in bets, the most in a day since the city’s handover from the UK in 1997, the South China Morning Post reported, citing the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

In Macau, almost 40,000 mainland visitors arrived on the second day of the holiday, the most since the start of the pandemic, according to a statement by the Macau Government Tourism Office. The city also had about 28,000 visitors from Hong Kong on the same day.

Hong Kong’s daily passenger arrivals from mainland China also jumped, with 14,892 mainland visitors on the day before the holiday, government data showed. That was the highest daily tally since February 2020, before the city shut its borders due to the pandemic. Visitors from mainland China have been increasing since Hong Kong scrapped quarantine requirements with mainland China on Jan. 8.

While Macau drew more visitors, Hong Kong is also looking to drop Covid testing requirement for travelers to and from mainland China to give a further boost to cross-border travel. The local economy faces a number of challenges as three years of closure weighed on businesses and the city’s own status as an international financial hub.