Hong Kong, Macau working on ‘travel bubble’ to allow SARs residents to travel without being quarantined

Hong Kong, Macau working on ‘travel bubble’ to allow SARs residents to travel without being quarantined

Hong Kong and Macau authorities are working on a “travel bubble” that would allow residents of the Chinese Special Administrative Regions (SARs) to travel freely between the two territories without the need for a fourteen-day quarantine on both ends.

The authorities are currently discussing how residents in Hong Kong and Macau could be allowed to travel between the two special reasons without undergoing a necessary quarantine. Jason Wong Chun-tat, the chairman of Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council, has confirmed that such a travel pact could soon be announced.

Following a meeting with the Hong Kong Commerce & Economic Development Bureau, Wong said, “The industry expects that the arrangement can be negotiated within this month and enacted within … one or two months.”

Presently, Macau permits people only from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to enter. But anyone who visits Macau has to undergo 14-day quarantine. However, people can choose to undergo the necessary quarantine at home or in a government quarantine center. Law enforcement agencies keep an eye on those who undergo quarantine at home with the help of an electronic bracelet monitor.

The compulsory quarantine policy has discouraged people from visiting Macau, which boasts to be the world’s biggest gambling center. During the lengthy COVID-19 lockdown, Macau’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) declined 93 per cent in May 2020 to $221 million in May. The figure is significantly lower than GGR of $3.2 billion in May 2019. The SAR’s five-star hotels, mainly at the enclave’s integrated resort (IR) casinos on the Cotai Strip, reported an occupancy rate of merely 6.6 per cent. In April of last year, the same hotels had reported an occupancy rate of 92.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, Galaxy Entertainment’s billionaire investor Lui Che Woo has suggested that it is the right time for Macau to lift its own quarantine mandate and allow people to travel between Macau and Hong Kong. He stressed that Macau should ease its border restrictions in order to attract gamblers so that local economy could get a much-needed boost. Galaxy Entertainment owns and operates Galaxy Macau, StarWorld Hotel and Broadway Macau.

Macau authorities’ decision to seal its boundaries in March this year enabled the SAR to largely ward off the deadly corona virus pandemic. The infection spread quickly throughout China and ultimately across the world, killing millions of people. The SAR has reported merely 45 corona cases and zero deaths.