Local authorities expressed the hope that the number of Indian tourists visiting the peninsula will significantly increase this year. However, some Indian visitors have been disappointed with how they are being received in the region. A note received by lawmaker José Pereira Coutinho from the Indian community in the region stated that there has been an increase in the number of “extra immigration measures” specifically for Indian nationals.
The complaint made to the lawmaker noted that such nationals are required to stand in a separate line and asked to show that they bring with them at least MOP5,000 in cash and have return flight tickets. The local immigration services reportedly demand that they show a printed copy of these return tickets.
“They still demand a hard copy or else they will not let you enter Macau. Should this continue further, Macau might just lose another tourist market,” the complaint noted.
The Times contacted the Immigration Bureau to confirm the allegations, however a spokesperson from the public department explained that such measures are part of the bureau’s working guidelines for “a number of tourists coming from a number of countries.” “No discrimination exists at all. We hope the tourists can understand that this is a normal procedure. […] We have service formalities,” the spokesperson said.
The Times interviewed several Indian tourists. Some of them said they entered the region with no hassle, but other visitors confirmed that they faced hurdles. Experiences of having to wait for a long time or being asked to procure the documents mentioned above appear to happen more often to tourists who travel alone.
Preeti Trehan said they did not encounter difficulties when entering Macau and were not interrogated by immigration purposes. “There was no trouble at all. It [the process] was very fast,” she assured.
Nonetheless, a self-employed tourist who is visiting Macau for the second time claimed that the immigration bureau is only stopping Indian nationals and some from Afghanistan.
“You can call it as treating against race, you can call [it as] racism. It’s very humiliating. But if the Chinese go there [to India], we treat them well. Chinese tourists are treated well in India,” said a man who did not want to be identified.
Another Indian who claimed to be on a business trip explained that they were asked to enter a room for investigation purposes and had their passports, return tickets and hotel vouchers photocopied.
“To my knowledge, it was all Indian passports. If they’re coming in families, I guess they’re allowing [them to enter Macau without investigation],” he said.
The businessman said he and his wife had to wait for nearly three hours to have their visa issued. He expressed the belief that the flow of Indian tourists to the region may be affected due to possible discrimination.
Another couple that are on their honeymoon trip also revealed to the Times they had been interrogated for nearly an hour.
The couple expressed their disappointment over the matter as they were asked to show pictures of their wedding and their company IDs despite showing officers their return tickets. “We are here as tourists and not for business purposes. Why are we getting that?” they complained.
The complaint also stated that such situations occur in Hong Kong. A few of the interviewees revealed that they were scrutinized in Hong Kong airport, and were held for more than half an hour.
“We came here to spend money, not to take away money from China. We’re not taking anything from here. It’s only [for] tourism,” said one interviewee.
Creating a negative image
Lawmaker Pereira Coutinho believes that the way Indian tourists are being treated when entering Macau is creating a negative image regarding the region’s reception of such tourists. According to him, the region is paying closer attention to the Indian tourist market, and as such, they should not be treated with indifference. “We think the Macau government should publicize what is the problem [for which they have been] requesting additional proof and return tickets from medium classes, which has created repercussions in the incoming tourists from India” he said.”
MGTO investing in the Indian market
The Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO) recently inaugurated its representation offices in New Delhi and in Mumbai in a bid to further promote Macau as a destination for Indian tourists. The bureau’s India head during 2015, Arzan Khambatta, said that Delhi and Mumbai along with Bengaluru, Chennai, and Ahmedabad would be Macau tourism target cities in the Indian market during the year. Also in 2015, MGTO promoted Macau at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart 2015, which was held in Bangalore, India. According to data from the bureau, Macau had 167,578 Indian tourist arrivals in 2015.