Myanmar emerges as new tourism hotspot in Southeast Asia

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Tourists in MyanmarMyanmar is increasingly becoming a serious competitor in the tourism sector in Southeast Asia after the country opened its borders wider for foreign visitors, improved air and land connectivity and eased visa regulations.

The still widely impoveríshed nation ruled for decades by a relentless military junta hopes to entice 7.5 million tourists a year by 2019, Tint Thwin, director-general of Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said. This seems achievable given the rapid rise of visitor numbers over the past years: In 2014, around 3 million tourist came to Myanmar, in 2015, it were 4.5 million, and this year the number should reach 5.5 million, according to Thwin.

This would be the number of visitors currently coming to both Cambodia and Laos together, two million more than the Philippines, or almost the number of tourists presently visiting Vietnam per year.

Previously, travel to once-secluded Myanmar used to be reserved for selected tour groups and for those booking predefined itineraries and being prepared to endure the travails of a country under military rule with patchy electricity and limited communications. Adding to that, much of the country was off-limits for foreigners.

But foreign tourists have flocked in since the country began opening up in 2011, offering a plethora of untouched beaches and islands, unspoiled and romantic landscapes, lakes and national parks, a widely undiscovered cultural heritage, temples, pagodas and monasteries.

However, travel infrastructure is poor although at least flight connections are improving. Hotels, particularly beyond urban areas, are scarce and thus expensive and often do not meet the standards of more traveler-friendly countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But things are improving through tourism investments and new professional travel agencies that seek to attract wealthier travelers by arranging new forms of tourism like community tourism or eco-adventures. The tourism ministry plans to grant more licenses for guest houses, tours and tour guides, creating more jobs for locals in the process.

Some even say the prognosis of 7.5 million tourists is too conservative, given the close to 30 million visitors neighbouring Thailand welcomed last year, followed by Malaysia with 25.7 million. But to achieve this, there is probably still a long way to go, and the Myanmar government should also balance the pro and cons of such mass tourism, particularly when looking at Thailand.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar is increasingly becoming a serious competitor in the tourism sector in Southeast Asia after the country opened its borders wider for foreign visitors, improved air and land connectivity and eased visa regulations.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tourists in MyanmarMyanmar is increasingly becoming a serious competitor in the tourism sector in Southeast Asia after the country opened its borders wider for foreign visitors, improved air and land connectivity and eased visa regulations.

The still widely impoveríshed nation ruled for decades by a relentless military junta hopes to entice 7.5 million tourists a year by 2019, Tint Thwin, director-general of Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said. This seems achievable given the rapid rise of visitor numbers over the past years: In 2014, around 3 million tourist came to Myanmar, in 2015, it were 4.5 million, and this year the number should reach 5.5 million, according to Thwin.

This would be the number of visitors currently coming to both Cambodia and Laos together, two million more than the Philippines, or almost the number of tourists presently visiting Vietnam per year.

Previously, travel to once-secluded Myanmar used to be reserved for selected tour groups and for those booking predefined itineraries and being prepared to endure the travails of a country under military rule with patchy electricity and limited communications. Adding to that, much of the country was off-limits for foreigners.

But foreign tourists have flocked in since the country began opening up in 2011, offering a plethora of untouched beaches and islands, unspoiled and romantic landscapes, lakes and national parks, a widely undiscovered cultural heritage, temples, pagodas and monasteries.

However, travel infrastructure is poor although at least flight connections are improving. Hotels, particularly beyond urban areas, are scarce and thus expensive and often do not meet the standards of more traveler-friendly countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But things are improving through tourism investments and new professional travel agencies that seek to attract wealthier travelers by arranging new forms of tourism like community tourism or eco-adventures. The tourism ministry plans to grant more licenses for guest houses, tours and tour guides, creating more jobs for locals in the process.

Some even say the prognosis of 7.5 million tourists is too conservative, given the close to 30 million visitors neighbouring Thailand welcomed last year, followed by Malaysia with 25.7 million. But to achieve this, there is probably still a long way to go, and the Myanmar government should also balance the pro and cons of such mass tourism, particularly when looking at Thailand.

 

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