For many, the bridge connecting Macau and Zhuhai to Hong Kong is a disappointment, but for the experts heard by Macau Business, the benefits are obvious.
MB November 2020 Special Report | Getting in and out
When we asked the Chairman of the Council of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Macau how to make the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macai Bridge (HZMB) more attractive for Macau tourism, Ku Weng Keong insisted on putting a stop to the conversation: “with only one year of data, it may not be suitable to conclude that the bridge brings a lot of tourists to Macau, but it does impact our tourism. It is not recommended Macau to blindly chase the number of tourists, but to strive to improve the quality of travel in Macau.”
As a mega infrastructure in the world “which contains a potential sightseeing value,” it is important to bear in mind that “fully extending the access right to the bridge may cause a large number of tourists to go into Macau, just like the situation when many tourists went to Tung Chung in Hong Kong at the beginning, causing trouble to local residents.”
But the Chairman of the Council of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Macau has no doubts that “the right of driving on the bridge should be gradually released, so that it can contribute more to the daily commuting between Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau.”
This widening of the ‘belt’, which is still very tight, must be followed, says Ku Weng Keong, with improvements in the access to the bridge from Macau and HK, “before the usage can be increased.”
Currently, the connection between Hong Kong International Airport and the HZMB Checking Facility at the Hong Kong side “still has rooms to improve, and in some ways, affects visitors using the bridge to access Macau,”
Professor Ku reminds that on the Macau side, there is only one road leading to the Border Checking Facility in Macau, which is connected to the Macau road network via a temporary crossing. “In the future, there will be the Fourth bridge, additional bridges to Macau road network and potentially a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) spur line connected to the proposed East Line.”
“When all these materializes, trips between Macau and Hong Kong, or the Hong Kong International Airport in particular, will be much improved, or even become seamless, and it would be an important factor further enhancing the connectivity of Macau, and easing the ways international visitors to access Macau,” states the Chairman of the Council of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Macau to Macau Business.
In 2019, there were 5.4 million tourists visiting Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, accounting for 13.7 per cent of the 39 million tourists accessing Macau, and the number of tourists in 2019 increased by 10 per cent compared to 2018.
And if the 2020 numbers will turn out to be very negative, it is important to understand the context.
“If there weren’t the protest and COVID in HK early this year – states Tian Li, author of a Master thesis about the bridge – I think they are the right track to have more tourists commuting as well as more logistic business using the bridge (Maybe not in a large scale but at least larger than the year the bridge just built) as Zhuhai is building many infrastructure to support the HZMB simultaneously during the passing 2 years. However, given the ‘two black swans’, the bridge now is in an embarrassed situation, but I wouldn’t say it was built too soon.”
José C. Alves, Professor of Management and Dean of the Faculty of Business of the City University of Macau, also understands that it is not the best time for balance sheets: “Due to the pandemic situation it is not reasonable to judge the level of mobility in the Greater Bay Area, or anywhere else in the world, including the use of the HZMB.”
Read More: Special Report – HZMB: the future is now