Ambrose So | Visitor tax would ‘certainly affect tourism’ in Macau
The Chief Executive of SJM Holdings Limited, Ambrose So, said on Friday that the effectiveness of a levy imposed on visitors to the Macau SAR would depend on how it is collected. Until then, So said he hesitated to comment further, but finally admitted that it would “certainly affect the city’s tourism.”
Last week, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) began its survey on the feasibility of imposing a tourist tax. On Friday, on the sidelines of the 6th Gala Dinner 2019 of the Macau European Chamber of Commerce, So was questioned about a possible tourist tax to be implemented in the future.
“I am not very clear regarding how it will be levied. I want to see the plan first. I cannot assess it when there is not a plan,” said So.
The survey is a response to complaints regarding the impact of the recent tourism influx on the normal life of residents. There are seven questions in the survey, with specific questions addressing the target and amount of the levy.
Residents have been asking for a tourist tax more frequently in recent years, including several lawmakers who have made proposals to the government at the Legislative Assembly. Proponents argue that it could help to ease overtourism pressures in the city and, according to some lawmakers, ‘upgrade’ the type of visitors that come to the city.
Some residents support a tourist tax, since its revenue could become a subsidy for the improvement of transportation facilities. On the other hand, opponents argue that the taxation will not help reduce passenger volume but will merely increase the government’s revenue.
When he was asked about the likely consequences of a tourist tax, So said that the “tax will certainly affect the city’s tourism.”
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“However, I don’t know how the tax is going to be collected, and the influence depends on the method of the taxation,” added the SJM Chief Executive. “We are going to wait for the plan [before commenting].”
According to the questionnaire published on the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) website, the bureau asked local residents aged 18 years and older what would be the appropriate use of the additional tax income.
The bureau provided six options as possible answers: to maintain existing facilities and tourist attractions; to enhance complementary sightseeing activities; to develop existing/additional attractions; to expand tourism promotion campaign; to provide subsidies to local tourism communities; and to enhance social welfare.
The questionnaire also asks residents for their opinion on the number of tourists Macau receives.
Moreover, the bureau prompts residents to individually rate the effectiveness of 13 strategies which address visitor growth. These strategies include: promoting the dispersal of visitors within the city and beyond; promoting time-based dispersal of visitors; stimulating new visitors’ itineraries and attractions; reviewing and adapting regulations; and enhancing visitors’ segmentation.
It is worth noting that, despite the fact that this survey is targeting only local residents, it can be filled in by any visitor of the MGTO website as long as the visitor answers ‘yes’ to the question ‘Are you a Macau resident?”. The webpage will then jump to the questionnaire without confirming the authenticity of citizenship of the respondent.
On casino security
Ambrose So also commented on the issue of casino security following a robbery case reported on the weekend, where two men stole HKD3 million in casino chips from a casino using pepper spray.
In So’s opinion, casinos in town have a sufficient number of cameras to guarantee the their security.
So suggested that casinos analyze “how could such a situation have occurred,” as well as consider how to balance security and ease of access for customers.