Lately, casinos in Macau have been forced to shut off a massive number of hotel rooms and reduce some of the available guest services, such as housekeeping, due to some difficulties associated with а labor shortage that has left the world’s largest gambling hub struggling to meet the increase in the number of tourists from China mainland.
People with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because the matter was considered an internal business issue, have informed Bloomberg that some five-star hotels in Macau’s casinos have less than 50% of the rooms available for booking.
The president of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association, Billy Song, revealed that another operator has shut off approximately one-fifth of its rooms for booking. According to him, the lack of service staff in the special administrative region (SAR) is so severe that some hotels have minimized the frequency of housekeeping services, with rooms being cleaned only after visitors check out. Mr. Song also shared that the slow hiring process for foreign employees in the gambling hub has been a problem that has obstructed the full reopening of the local casino hotel resorts even after the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Casino operators, however, remain hopeful that they will have their hotels operating at full capacity by the beginning of the summer season. The Macau Responsible Gaming Association’s boss shared that the local gambling operators had not expected to see such a fast reopening of the market, so it caught them pretty much unprepared for everything that followed.
Labor Shortage Triggers Room Rate Inflation and Results in Poor Hospitality Services
The truth is that capturing the momentum and the initial wave of tourists is a matter of paramount importance when it comes to the recovery of Macau, which has suffered an extremely tough three-year period following the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The labor shortage, however, has triggered room rate inflation and a significant decline in the quality of hospitality services. Apart from that, it could also result in further issues for local casino operators that experienced a combined loss of $1.6 billion during the pandemic.
Macau’s VIP industry, which accounted for approximately 50% of the gambling revenue of the special administrative region before Covid-19, has already been hit by the authorities’ crackdown on high-roller customers and their agents. As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, casinos are also facing stricter government policies and controls, as local authorities have initiated an overhaul of the city’s gambling laws in line with the more restrictive gambling policy of the Government of Mainland China.
For the time being, most casino jobs in Macau, including floor managers, dealers, accountants, etc., are reserved for local residents.
As confirmed by the president of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association, the most urgent need for additional manpower is faced by local hotels and restaurants, which need more front-facing staff. These jobs have been mostly occupied by non-local workers before the coronavirus pandemic, with some of the employees originating from mainland China or Southeast Asia. Many of those workers, however, were either laid off or left their jobs themselves during Covid-19, when the Government of Macau shut the SAR’s borders alongside Hong Kong and faced the most serious lack of tourists in history.
Casino and Hotel Staff in Macau Unwilling to Return to Their Old Jobs
According to reports, over 44,000 non-local employees have left the special administrative region of Macau since early 2020, with them leaving a massive hole in the SAR’s workforce even after the zero-Covid policy of the Chinese Government was put to an end. About 90% of the tourists visiting the world’s largest gambling hub have been originating from China mainland and Hong Kong.
As revealed by casino recruitment specialists, many Chinese individuals who previously worked in Macau returned to mainland China and are now working in cities over the border. Employees originating from Southeast Asia have constituted a significant part of the special administrative region’s workforce but they have headed to other countries in the region, such as Vietnam and Singapore, where both tourism and gambling are flourishing.
Since the Government of mainland China reopened the country’s borders, gambling revenue in the region surged from the lows registered during the coronavirus pandemic, but its levels are still far behind the ones from before the Covid-19 outbreak. Macau’s March revenue rose to its highest levels in three years but it was still at about half of the pre-pandemic levels. Considering the fact that local hotels find it hard to engage enough manpower to offer their full capacity, casinos could also find it difficult to sustain the rebound momentum it has been facing lately.