Myanmar Woos China, Southeast Asian Tourists

Myanmar is shifting its tourism focus towards China and South-East Asia markets after Western and European tourist inflow witnessed a decline due to recent turmoil in northern Rakhine State.

“We will focus on the countries which have good relations with Myanmar for tourism promotions, such as China, South Korea, Japan and ASEAN,” U Yan Win, chairman of Myanmar Tourism Federation told The Myanmar Times.

Last week, the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism and the private travel associations from Myanmar and China hosted the first China-Myanmar tourism promotion workshop in Yangon.

They discussed tourism promotion plans and identified the problem areas which hindered the flow of Chinese tourists into Myanmar.

U Yan Win said that in 2016, tourists from China are the second largest number of foreign visitors in Myanmar next to Thailand, which has been over 180,000 nationals visiting the country.

“We need to do more tourism promotions in China and Hong Kong since Chinese tourists are the second-largest visitors in the country,” he said.

“When we went to do tourism exhibition in China, there were only a few people who knew our country. So we intend to attract 10 times more Chinese visitors within two years,” he said.

China has a population of 1.3 billion of which 122 million visited foreign destinations in 2016.

Chinese tourists spent US$110 billion (K150.33 trillion) during their trips – an average of $900 per person.

One fourth of Thailand’s foreign visitors come from China. Last year, close to nine million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, said Chen Chen, deputy chief of mission and minister-counsellor at the embassy of China in Yangon.

However, only a few Chinese tourists visit Myanmar, which is why we encourage more Chinese nationals to tour Myanmar, he added.

“It is more expensive for a Chinese tourist to stay a week in Myanmar, due to hotel prices, than to visit Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore,” added Chen.

“Airlines and aircraft capacity is small in comparison with China-Myanmar’s strong friendship. Embassies will mobilise both governments and related ministries on the issue and try to persuade the government’s owned companies and private companies to invest in Myanmar’s hotel industry.”

U Yan Win said there were some issues that hindered the flow of Chinese tourists into Myanmar, such as the visa-on-arrival (VOA) issue and border passing permit required by the Myanmar government.

The border touching areas along the China-Myanmar sides are closed for long trips. The processes of visa on arrival at the airport are too long and also visitors need a company invitation letter for a VOA, he added.

“Many more Chinese tourists would come if we can reduce some regulations for VOAs and allowed back border passing permit for long trips. That is why we will report these issues to the Tourism Development Committee led by the vice president,” he said.

The ministry and private tourism sector are trying to get a VOA permit for 22 countries including China, Japan, South Korea and other Southeast Asian countries in the initial stage.

“The tourism target has shifted to China and Southeast Asia instead of Western and European market,” U Khin Aung Htun, vice chairman of Myanmar Tourism federation said.  “We have to recover at least two or three years to get over the impact of Rakhine crisis. That is why we are pushing to allow VOA permit for tourists.”

The Immigration Department only allowed tourists E-visa for over 100 countries, business E-visa for over 50 countries and pre-arranged visa on arrival that need respective company’s invitation letters.

According to the ministry, there are no plans to open international border gates along the China-Myanmar border areas like Myawaddy and Tachilek border gates.

“We are still discussing with the Immigration Department how to issue VOA permits for all countries including China,” said U Tint Thwin, director general of the ministry.

“We have no plans yet to upgrade Muse border gate as international border gateway. As for caravan tours, they can pass if they have permit from the government,” he added.

Muse border gate is closed for long day-trip visitors since a year ago due to security issues.

Nearly 20 Muse-based travel and tour companies have stopped their tourism related business there, according to U Myo Than, secretary of Muse Tourism Association.

“We want to re-open for tourism development. At the moment, only day-return trip is allowed. If the government will allow long-day trip, a lot of Chinese visitors would visit Myanmar,” he said.

Currently, there are over 500 day-return travellers coming daily and about 2000 visitors during festival days passing through Muse border gate, he said.

Each traveller has to pay 13.5 yuan (K2782) for day-return trips and if they come with passports, they have to pay $10 to the Hotel and Tourism Department and 42 yuan to Customs Department, U Myo Than said.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

 

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