Myanmar´s tourism revival at risk amid Rohingya crisis

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Myanmar has huge plans for its tourism industry. While 2.9 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2016, the government targets to welcome 3.5 million tourists this year and current figures underline that tourism is on the rise.

Tourist arrivals from January to August 2017 touched 2.27 million, marking a 22 per cent increase. Myanmar earned $2,2 billion from tourism last year, making a daily average income of $6 million from the industry, according to an article by the state-owned Kyemone paper. 

However, all this could be at stake after Rohingya villages started to be devastated from August. Fears are growing as a cascade of cancellations ripples through Myanmar’s fledgling tourism industry, with shocking images of burnt villages and Muslim Rohingya fleeing army-led violence in western Rakhine state sparking global outrage.

With more than half a million Rohingya forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in two months, carrying testimony of killings, rape and arson at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs, Myanmar’s tourism sector could collapse back to its dark days under military rule, observers note.

Ever since the bloodshed broke out in late August, tourism operators have witnessed a torrent of cancellations in the emerging industry that was gearing up for its high season in October.

“Almost all the trips scheduled for October and November have been cancelled due to instability in the country, because of the situation in Rakhine state,” said Tun Tun Naing from New Fantastic Asia Travels and Tour, an agency that leads trips to the pristine beaches and mist-shrouded lakes that dot the lush country.

“Most groups in Japan, Australia and other Asian countries cited security reasons and some Europeans have clearly said they boycotted because of the humanitarian situation.”

In Yangon, a bustling city known for its crumbling colonial architecture, some foreign tourists could still be seen circling the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda that looms over the former capital. But they admitted that the ongoing crisis is an awkward backdrop for their holiday.

“It’s very sad to see what the country is becoming, our guide told us that Muslims were dangerous and that they were not Burmese,” said French tourist Christine, who declined to give her surname.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar has huge plans for its tourism industry. While 2.9 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2016, the government targets to welcome 3.5 million tourists this year and current figures underline that tourism is on the rise.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar has huge plans for its tourism industry. While 2.9 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2016, the government targets to welcome 3.5 million tourists this year and current figures underline that tourism is on the rise.

Tourist arrivals from January to August 2017 touched 2.27 million, marking a 22 per cent increase. Myanmar earned $2,2 billion from tourism last year, making a daily average income of $6 million from the industry, according to an article by the state-owned Kyemone paper. 

However, all this could be at stake after Rohingya villages started to be devastated from August. Fears are growing as a cascade of cancellations ripples through Myanmar’s fledgling tourism industry, with shocking images of burnt villages and Muslim Rohingya fleeing army-led violence in western Rakhine state sparking global outrage.

With more than half a million Rohingya forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in two months, carrying testimony of killings, rape and arson at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs, Myanmar’s tourism sector could collapse back to its dark days under military rule, observers note.

Ever since the bloodshed broke out in late August, tourism operators have witnessed a torrent of cancellations in the emerging industry that was gearing up for its high season in October.

“Almost all the trips scheduled for October and November have been cancelled due to instability in the country, because of the situation in Rakhine state,” said Tun Tun Naing from New Fantastic Asia Travels and Tour, an agency that leads trips to the pristine beaches and mist-shrouded lakes that dot the lush country.

“Most groups in Japan, Australia and other Asian countries cited security reasons and some Europeans have clearly said they boycotted because of the humanitarian situation.”

In Yangon, a bustling city known for its crumbling colonial architecture, some foreign tourists could still be seen circling the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda that looms over the former capital. But they admitted that the ongoing crisis is an awkward backdrop for their holiday.

“It’s very sad to see what the country is becoming, our guide told us that Muslims were dangerous and that they were not Burmese,” said French tourist Christine, who declined to give her surname.

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