A new survey has indicated that gambling remains the main reason most mainland Chinese tourists visit Macau although non-gaming activities are increasingly becoming an important draw factor.

According to the proprietary survey of 1,900 visitors conducted by research and brokerage firm Bernstein Research, 50% of tourists to Macau from mainland China travelled alongside a spouse or family member while another 30% came in the company of friends with the majority expecting to spend more or at least the same on subsequent visits.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents revealed that they had been to Macau in the past two years with 49% having visited over the previous twelve months. Among this latter group, 43% had travelled to the former Portuguese enclave more than once with 17% having been on three or more occasions.

“Most visitors view gaming as an extension of the holiday experience but not necessarily the only reason for visiting Macau,” read commentary from Bernstein Research analysts Vitaly Umansky,  Zhen Gong and Yang Xie. “Shopping and dining are important aspects with time spent on both surpassing hours spent gaming. Visitors plan to spend a larger amount on subsequent trips.”

The survey was conducted in order to build a better picture of the low-end to premium mass-market segments and involved respondents with an annual household income of at least $17,328 with the average standing at just over $60,860. It found that only 5% of gamblers could account for up to 40% of aggregated gross gambling revenues, which compares with the 20% thought to be behind approximately 80% of takings in Las Vegas.

Of those that had gambled, 5% reported gaming losses of more than $4,340 per visit with the average loss being around $9,050. Bernstein Research reported that this group accounts for 41% of aggregated gross gambling revenues while there was a “reasonable indication” that it constitutes what the industry terms “premium mass-market” players.

A further 7% of respondents had gaming losses per visit of $1,449 to $4,339, which the research and brokerage firm referred to as “higher end base-mass players”, while 88% were mid to “low-end” punters with shortfalls under $1,448 and averaging around $797.

In relation to travel and stay, the survey found that the average length of visit for residents of the neighboring Guangdong Province was 1.5 days while this increased to 2.2 nights for those from further afield. The research indicated that 80% of visitors stopping only overnight with the Individual Visit Scheme Visa the preferred entry method.

“It’s unsurprising to see the results because visitors from non-Guangdong provinces usually stay longer per visit as they spend longer time on the road to Macau,” read the commentary from Umansky, Gong and Xie. “With mass gaming and increasing overnight visitation being a key driver, consumer preferences and behaviors are becoming more important in evaluating the future of the Macau gaming market.”

Regarding marketing, the research showed that social media and Internet marketing had become more popular with 47% of respondents having seen some form of online marketing of Macau or casinos. Loyalty programs moreover saw an uptick, with 49% of respondents claiming to have joined at least one of these schemes during their previous visit. Bernstein Research reported that the Sands Rewards program from Sands China Limited was the most popular with an over 50% participation rate for those that were a member of such schemes.

“Respondents claimed online, excluding social media, marketing as the most common channel with 57% of respondents having seen advertisements online including travel agencies [while] 36% of respondents saw advertisements through official social media and a similar percentage saw postings on friends or family social media,” read the commentary from Umansky, Gong and Xie.

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