Tourist arrivals through Yangon International Airport hit a record high in 2014, rising more than 20 percent, figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism show.
The number of foreign visitors arriving through the Yangon gateway increased 21.11pc to 972,597, up from 803,014 in 2013.
About 698,206 visitors, representing more than 70pc of total arrivals, were from Asian countries, including 165,661 from Thailand, the largest single group, followed by Japan with 78,606 and China with 78,109.
European nationals accounted for 166,981 travellers, representing 17.16pc of total arrivals. France led the way with 34,505 visitors, followed by the United Kingdom with 33,944 and Germany with 26,564.
The figures also showed a 74.33pc rise in package tourists, with 48,304 people arriving in 2014, up from 27,707 the previous year. Tourist visa arrivals made up 468,484, or about 48pc, and were up almost 10pc overall. Meanwhile, the number of free independent travellers (FIT) showed a modest rise of about 5pc to 420,180, from 400,381 in 2013.
The ministry announced recently that tourist arrivals through all major gateways including Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Bagan airports and border checkpoints, made up more than 3.05 million tourists in 2014 and earned US$1.14 billion in direct revenue.
Tourism numbers have been on the rise since the country began to open up as the military regime gave way to democratisation following the 2010 election.
The ministry also predicts about 5 million tourist arrivals for 2015, and it plans to open up more coastal areas and ethnic regions in addition to the traditionally popular destinations in the centre of the country, such as Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.
U Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, chair of Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM), said the shortage of hotel rooms at major tourist destinations and the lack of a well-trained workforce would be the major challenges for the sector in 2015.
He spoke of the need to promote new destinations such as Loikaw in Kayah State and Thandaung near Taungoo, Bago Region, to relieve the influx of arrivals on the established sites.
Ma Su Su Tin, managing director of Exotissimo Travel in Yangon, said her company’s business grew about 5pc in 2014.
“I think Myanmar is still considered as an expensive destination, and the hotel room shortage remains, but a lot more hotels in different destinations are ready to open this year. I believe overall growth will continue in 2015,” she said.
Source: MYANMAR TIMES