Myanmar to work with neighbours to revive tourism
The government would work with its neighbours Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to rescue Myanmar’s tourism industry from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four countries have contained the spread of the virus within their own territories, and are now trying to breathe life into their economies that were crippled by the pandemic.
U Tin Latt, deputy minister of Hotels and Tourism, told a forum on June 1 that the government will introduce regional tourism services with its three neighbours.
"By travelling to Myanmar and within other ASEAN countries, we can show that Myanmar is safe from COVID-19,” he said. “We will partner with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, who are in a better position than us."
He said the four countries had signed an agreement to ease border access among them.
U Tin Latt cited the possibility of promoting cross-border trips by granting third-party citizenship access among the four partners.
Although no specific plans have been set for the regional tourism scheme, experts underscored the need to involve industry stakeholders in the planning of the initiative.
Myanmar remains closed to foreign tourists with an international flight ban until June 15.
Although the country only experienced a mild outbreak of the dreaded disease – with 234 cases, six deaths and 145 recoveries so far – the government is proceeding cautiously with easing restrictions, aware that it does not have the capability to handle a severe outbreak.
However, there are indications that the government will allow the resumption of international flights after June 15. It issued a list of stiff measures for foreigners entering the country this week, including a compulsory one-week facility quarantine and COVID-19 testing, among others.
The two weeks after the flights resume would test the ability of Myanmar to deal with the influx of foreigners, experts said, noting that there had been an upsurge of cases among returning migrant workers during the past three weeks.
From May 16 to June 4, all but one of the 45 new virus cases in the country involved the returnees.
Last month, Myanmar tourism companies began preparing to organise tours again, as it became apparent that the COVID-19 outbreak in the country was not as bad as expected.
Daw Aye Thida Moe, vice chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, said tour companies are awaiting government guidelines to ensure the safe reopening of their businesses, which would focus on domestic tourism first.
Thet Lwin Toe, managing director of Myanmar Voyages International Tourism, said, “Visitors will have to make adjustments for the travel restrictions.”
Visitors to Myanmar dropped by 44 percent from January to April as the world grappled with the deadly virus that has spread to 188 countries and killed over 345,000 people.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism hopes to come up with a new strategy when the industry reopens, focusing on “quality” tourists, who bring in more revenue, rather than on quantity.
U Aung Aye Han, deputy director general of the ministry, promised a review of zero-budget tours, which involve mostly Chinese tourists buying cheap package deals from tour operators registered in Myanmar but owned by Chinese nationals. The packages involve tightly planned itineraries that only patronise shops, hotels and restaurants that are connected to the tour operators.
In 2019, the ministry said, foreign arrivals by land and air in the country rose 23pc to 4.36 million, up from the 3.55 million the previous year, mainly due to “zero-budget tourists.”
Government data showed that Chinese nationals accounted for nearly a third of tourists last year, a 152pc increase from the previous year.
Myanmar’s tourism industry accounts for 6.6pc of the country’s gross domestic product, generating US$4.9 billion dollars in 2017, and employs 1.4 million people.
Original article: mmtimes.com/news/…