Macau - The game changer

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The front seat is the hot seat for an unobstructed view of this sparkling new highway. The shuttle bus (US$8-9) leaves Hong Kong to purr along the smooth lane, dark tarmac and perfect bright-white lines high above the glinting sea below. It dives into the tunnel for a handful of minutes, then pops out into the sunlight again before passing Zhuhai to arrive in Macau.

Driving on a highway has never felt so historic, but the approximately 45-minute trip on this US$20-billion, nine-years-in-the-making, 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) is a true game changer.

Opened on October 24, 2018, by year-end the HZMB had already paved the way for over a million extra land arrivals, boosting the city's record-breaking total of 35.8 million visitors, a year-on-year increase of 9.8%. Numbers aside, the new access point has generated a lot of excitement in the city, especially when it comes to the inbound MICE market.

"We are always looking for MICE opportunities, and with the bridge now providing a more direct link to Macau, we think there is definitely some potential for growth there," said Daniella Tonetto, general manager, sales & marketing, Sheraton Grand Macao and The St. Regis Macao. "Our efforts in 2019 will be to highlight the bridge as another unique benefit of staging an event with us, to existing customers and new ones considering us for the first time."

Making connections
Macau's land borders and ferry trips are efficient. However, they can get very crowded, and booking for larger groups on peak-hour ferries can be a real challenge. The shuttle buses on HZMB run 24/7, leave every five minutes during peak hours (every 10-15 minutes otherwise) and organisers can even charter buses for their groups.

The Hong Kong Port is just a five- to ten-minute bus ride from HKIA, creating a convenient funnel for passengers from its 120 airlines and 220 destinations with little to no waiting time, unlike the less-frequent ferries plying this route.  

According to Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, the bridge, now already the second largest port of entry for land arrivals, will be under research for a year. "We will be working on the possibility to make the bridge more accessible," she said.