MACAO, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has taken multiple measures to encourage consumption and boost the local economy, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting in April and earlier than in previous years, each permanent resident of Macao is entitled to receiving 10,000 patacas for this year's wealth partaking scheme. Non-permanent residents are entitled to receiving 6,000 patacas per person.
On Monday, the SAR government announced an optimized plan for consumption benefits through electronic payment methods, under which Macao permanent and non-permanent resident ID holders would each be entitled to a start-up fund of 5,000 patacas and a discount grant of 3,000 patacas.
Furthermore, the government announced on Wednesday that each Macao resident can also enjoy subsidies of up to 380 patacas for use in traveling and dining within Macao and 200 patacas for staying in local hotels. The registration started on Thursday.
As of Friday, a number of residents had signed up for subsidized helicopter and yacht experiences, prompting the authority to draw lots to decide who gets the chances, the Macao Government Tourism Office said.
The government announced on March 15 that it would roll out a package of stimulus measures to help boost local employment, stabilize the economy and improve people's livelihood.
Lei Wai Nong, secretary for economy and finance of the Macao SAR government, said that the government had taken the advice from various walks of life on the plan of electronic payment discounts since it was first announced.
The government has also been making efforts to attract more mainland tourists by hosting promotional events in the mainland that brand Macao as a safe and quality destination and offering hotel discount coupons for visitors.
As of Friday, no locally transmitted COVID-19 case had been reported in Macao for 383 continuous days, which has gradually helped it regain popularity among mainland tourists.
Ho Iat Seng, chief executive of the Macao SAR, said on Tuesday the government was sparing no effort in attracting a greater number of tourists to visit Macao, adding there would be further promotional events in mainland cities in the southwest of the country.
The government has an incentive scheme for mainland tourists to enjoy promotional offers while visiting Macao. Consumption vouchers issued to tourists under the scheme had generated a leverage ratio of 21.82 times, indicating tourist spending in Macao was growing, according to the Government Information Bureau.
Ip Kuai Peng, Pro-Rector of the City University of Macao, told Xinhua that if Macao and the adjacent Guangdong Province in the mainland further simplify customs formalities for travelers who have been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines, Macao's economy would be revitalized substantively.
"The local governments need to further promote the vaccination scheme and ensure that vaccination covers a certain proportion of the population to build up group immunity," Ip said, adding that Macao must continue closely monitoring of its epidemic situation and further consolidate the local medical and public health systems.
Thanks to the SAR government's unremitting efforts to bring the COVID-19 epidemic under control, Macao's economy has been gradually recovering in recent months.
The number of visitor arrivals in Macao in February represented a year-on-year uplift of 173.1 percent. The average occupancy rate of guest rooms stood at 38.5 percent in February, representing a year-on-year growth of 23.7 percentage points.
Macao's GDP in the fourth quarter of 2020 contracted by 45.9 percent year on year in real terms, a smaller decline from the preceding quarter. External demand also recovered compared to the previous quarter. Export of services dropped at a slower pace, by 61.0 percent year on year.
Moreover, despite the year-on-year drop of monthly gaming revenue in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, the drop gradually eased in the second half of the year. In February this year, monthly gaming revenue soared 135.6 percent year on year. The figure for March increased 58.0 percent year on year.