Macau to review possible introduction of tourism tax

The possibility of introducing a tax on travelers entering the city to raise additional income with the aim of further developing tourist-related infrastructure.

It comes from Maria Helena de Sena Fernandez, the tourism director of the Macau government’s tourism agency, just months after the government detailed that it ended last year with a budget surplus of about $6.66 billion.

Fernandez explained that her office intended to investigate the travel destinations that first introduced the tourism tax, and mentioned the Italian cities of Venice and Japan as specific places of interest. She also detailed that she did not set a deadline for completing the investigation but did not want to “drag too long” because she hoped she would be able to “present results so we can discuss them in detail.”

Japan has begun imposing a so-called “Sayonara tax” of about $9.10 on all foreigners leaving the country, which is being set aside to help local governments to build and maintain tourism infrastructure. In addition, Venice noted that it plans to introduce a similar tariff of about $3.40 from the first day of May and even raise the rate to about $11.29.

Macau collected a total of $13.21 billion in taxes from more than 30 gaming facilities last year, accounting for nearly 80% of the city’s total revenue of about $16.59 billion. The introduction of the tourism tax is expected to further improve the balance sheet of previous Portuguese residences, bringing the number of visitors to 35.81 million, up 9.8% from the previous year.

In response to the possibility of introducing a tourism tax, Grant Bowie, chief executive of local casino operator MGM China Holdings Limited, declared that the resulting income should be “specially used to promote tourism” instead of being treated as an “alternative tax collection method.”

“To be honest, I think the Macau government is particularly fortunate, and has a very sustainable and solid financial position at this point.”

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