The Rohingya crisis is generating an outcry from the International community following Myanmar Army chasing away Rohingya population from Myanmar. The coverage by international media of 350,000 Muslim fleding Rakhine state in favour of neighbouring Bangladesh is having a negative impact on the tourism industry.
According to the vice-chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Federation to the local magazine Frontier, negative headlines over Myanmar is contributing to a downturn in foreign tourist arrivals, with some visits already cancelled. Protests and a call forboycott by some ASEAN countries such as malaysia and Indonesia- with their mostly Muslim population- will certainly deter travellers from those countries to go to Myanmar in the short term.
U Khin Aung Tun indicated that some travellers have also been deterred by travel advisories issued by their governments.
They include Britain, which has advised against all but essential travel to Rakhine, except its southern townships, including Thandwe, in which popular Ngapali beach is located.
The exodus of the Rohingya community and the unfolding humanitarian crises in Bangladesh and in northern Rakhine, where the violence had halted humanitarian aid deliveries, have attracted much attention from the international community and big media organisations, Khin Aung Tun told Frontier.
“Powerful international media such as CNN and BBC have consistently reported unverified reports of abuses, and that has had a negative effect on the country’s reputation,” he said.
The Myanmar Tourism Federation received already many enquiries from clients and partners asking about the real state of safety in the country. All of Myanmar remains safe but three areas in Rakhine State, according to locals.
Although some travel companies had cancelled bookings to conflict-affected areas of Rakhine, Ngapali beach and the ancient capital at Mrauk-U remain popular destinations for foreign tourists, said U Kaung Sithu, sales manager at Yangon-based 7Days Travel & Tours Co. “Foreigners, especially Germans, are still visiting Ngapali and Mrauk-U as those areas are not affected by the conflict,” Frontier magazine reported on September 15.
“We don’t see so far the Rakhine situation having much effect on the tourism industry,” Kaung Sithu said.
Mr Stefan Scheerer, assistant general manager at Khiri Travel, said the crisis in Rakhine was having a growing negative impact on travel to other parts of Myanmar that remained peaceful.
“Despite the ever-existing restricted areas for tourism, Myanmar continues to be one of the safest places for travellers,” Scheerer told Frontier in an email interview on September 13.
“We all hope that this situation will very soon come to an peaceful denouement for everyone affected,” he said. Travel operators hope the situation will be resolved soon. “The longer the crisis remains, the bigger the impact on the country,” said Khin Aung Tun to Frontier.