Reporter Kyaw Hsu Mon from the Irrawady newspaper thinks that government’s tourist numbers are misleading and that Myanmar will be far away from a target of 4.5 to 5 million international tourists this year. For some observers, Myanmar numbers might be the result of misleading statistics. Earlier this year Minister of Hotels and Tourism Htay Aung estimated tourist arrivals for this calendar year to fall between 4.5 and 5 million.
The growth would be on pair with the evolution of tourism since Myanmar opened up under a quasi-civilian government. From 2011 to 2014, total international arrivals were multiplied by four, growing from 800,000 to 3.08 million. Latest release figures for 2015 show that the country already welcomed close to three million foreign tourists until the end of August.
However, the three million recorded travellers comprise also border tourism movements. They represented until August this year close to 2 million arrivals while air arrivals – which are truly international visitors- represented less than a million people.
Thai visitors comprised 71.39 percent of total foreign visitors to Myanmar last year. According to the Irrawaddy, doubt is spreading among tour operators and outside observers. Maung Maung, chairman of World Quest International, a travel and tour agency, said that he is doubtful about the figures that have been released by the government. “It’s hard to calculate the figures for border entries.They might be wrong. Figures for airports and seaports, however, are exact, and we can count those,” he declared the newspaper.
“I don’t see anything supporting the estimate that we’ll receive 5 million tourists this year, as package tours have been falling,” Maung Maung added to the Irrawaddy.
Phyo Wai Yar Zar, chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing board, expressed also similar sentiments to the newspaper. Myanmar tourism is currently slowing down due to many factors: economic crisis in surrounding countries; lack of quality hotels and accommodation; expensive room rates; deficient infrastructure; unreliable and even dangerous air services. Some observers now talk of a total number of tourists reaching four million this year. More promotion will be done abroad to expose Myanmar while new hotel rooms are due to come into the market between 2016 and 2018. The country has now 5,900 hotel rooms. An improvement compared to previous years but still not sufficient enough.