MACAO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) is welcoming tourists from home and abroad with festive celebrations and diverse cultural and entertainment events ahead of the coming Spring Festival.
The festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 22 this year, is the most important occasion for the Chinese to celebrate family reunions and anticipate blessings for the lunar new year.
Long queues of customers lined up in front of Macao's old stores selling local specialties. Crowds of tourists filled the steps of the landmark Ruins of St. Paul's. Airliners, shipping companies, and cross-border bus operators were busy transporting travellers speaking different languages.
With inbound travel restrictions further eased, the Macao SAR is welcoming a surge of tourists from near and far, including the mainland, China's Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan region, as well as other countries, ahead of the Spring Festival.
Starting Jan. 8, no nucleic acid test results for COVID-19 are required for visitors entering Macao from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In addition, no prior approval or quarantine is required for foreigners to enter the Macao SAR.
Figures from the Macao Government Tourism Office showed that around 55,000 visitors entered Macao on Saturday, a single-day record high since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago.
A tourist surnamed Du from the mainland's Sichuan Province said she and her family chose to come to Macao as soon as entry restrictions were eased.
"We have stayed here for four days, visiting the scenic spots and the beach. We enjoyed the city's night view very much," she told Xinhua.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Macao SAR said it had approved of applications from several airlines for resuming or increasing passenger flights.
Currently, Macao is connected with 21 mainland cities, Hong Kong, one city in Taiwan and six more cities in other Asian countries by passenger flights.
Macao's major carrier Air Macao said a total of 385 flights are scheduled during the festival, about 80 percent of the number before the pandemic.
Laurent, a Frenchman who has been living in Hong Kong for 20 years, arrived in Macao by ferry. "We're super happy to come to Macao with the kids, so that I can show them Macao's old city and restaurants," said the man who has been to Macao many times.
After three years of the pandemic which dealt a heavy blow to its tourism industry, Macao has recently gone to all lengths to attract tourists for the coming Spring Festival.
The city will put on a series of festive celebrations, including street tours of a dancing golden dragon over 200 meters long, dancing lions, float parades, street performances and fireworks shows. Multiple cultural and entertainment events such as exhibitions and concerts will also be staged.
Simon, an Australian living in Hong Kong, said he came to Macao as soon as the new entry policies took effect. "We love the dining, entertainment and great shows here," he said excitedly.
"Hopefully we can now come more often given the easy access from Hong Kong," he added.
The Macao Government Tourism Office said it is working with counterparts in Hong Kong, a major tourist source for Macao, to offer preferential tour packages covering transport and accommodation, aiming at attracting high consumption tourists to boost Macao's economy.
A group of around 40 tourism industry leaders and delegates from the media in Hong Kong arrived in Macao on Sunday for the start of a two-day tour, which includes immersive experiences of Macao's unique Chinese and Portuguese culture mixing elements and other tourism highlights.
They will also commune and interact with their Macao counterparts.
Andy Wu Keng Kuong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Macao, said Macao's travel industry boasts huge potential. "I hope the industry can continue to shine in the future," he said. ■