Early October will see Japanese and Korean tourists being granted free visa on arrival when visiting Myanmar while Chinese tour groups will benefit from visa on arrival facilities.
The information has been confirmed by Myanmar authorities. Coming October, the Myanmar government will grant visa-free entry to Myanmar for citizens of Japan and South Korea and give visas on arrival to Chinese tourists but only for group tours. The information had already been announced in local newspapers a month ago.
The idea is now to extend visa facilities for the three countries associated to ASEAN within the political partnership ASEAN + 3 – which includes effectively China PRC, South Korea and Japan.
For the time being, the ministry’s marketing strategy is focusing on tourists from Asia rather than travellers from Western countries as the image of Myanmar has been battered by the northern Rakhine humanitarian crisis linked to the treatment of Rohingya people.
Last year, ASIA accounted for 954,000 tourists (if only air arrivals are accounted). This represented 70% of all international arrivals. While Thailand sent the largest number of visitors (274,000 in 2017), China PRC was already the second largest inbound market with 213,000 arrivals, followed by Japan with 101,000 arrivals and South Korea with 66,000 arrivals.
According to the figures for the first four months of 2018, there has been an increase of 31% in tourists’ arrivals from China, a jump of 20% from Thailand and 21% from Malaysia. Japan and Korea have however been disappointing. Japan registered a growth of only 2% from January to April while Korean arrivals stagnated according to the ministry.
The ministry recorded more than 1.2 million tourists at the end of April, among which 90,000 were Chinese. In the future, it is not impossible that selected European and Western countries could also benefit from the free visa on arrival. Western Europe generated last year close to 240,000 arrivals, representing the second largest source market by continent.