Booming Tourism Times to be back in Myanmar?

Myanmar, data, visa-on-arrival

Inle Lake in Myanmar (photo: wikimedia commons)

Since October 1, Myanmar provides visa-on-arrival to six more countries, five from Europe and Australia. The country had already relaxed last year visa rules for Northeast Asian citizens, a policy which already shows results in tourist arrivals’ number this year as the country recorded a growth of 39% for the first eight months of 2019.

Last year, tourists from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau were granted visa-free entry into Myanmar, while Indian and Chinese nationals were given visas-on-arrival in a move to draw more visitors from Asia. Since October 1st, Myanmar passport holders from Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Russia have been added to the list of countries able to receive a visa-on-arrival each at Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports. Starting from October 1, the six countries will no longer require pre-arranged approval. Visa-on-arrival is costing US$50.

Relaxing rules for more tourists are showing positive effects already on Myanmar tourist arrivals. Since the start of the year, Asian tourists to Myanmar are booming. For the first eight months of 2019, Myanmar‘s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism reported visitor arrivals up by 39% with arrivals by air rising by 34%. Visitor arrivals reached 1.2 million including 1.1 million at the three international air gateways.

China is turning into the driving force behind this tourism boom. From January to August, the total number of visitors was up 161% translating into 457,069 arrivals. China represents already 38.1% of all arrivals to the country. South Korean arrivals are also booming, up by 77% to 75,489. The Japanese market showed a growth of 24% during the same period to reach 81,273 arrivals. Japan is the third largest inbound market behind China and Thailand (176,150 arrivals, down by 9%).

More worrying is the continuous decline of all ASEAN markets. Beside Thailand, arrivals are down also for Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, down by 9% for Malaysia and 3% for both Singapore and Vietnam. European arrivals continued to decline from January to August. France, Europe’s largest inbound source to Myanmar, was down 2% to 26,922 arrivals followed by the UK, down by 10% to 21,787 arrivals and Germany, down 1% to 16,627 arrivals. US arrivals however grew by 4% to 42,282 arrivals.

New destinations are being promoted to entice more tourists. According to the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association, nine destinations are highlighted including Myeik, Mogok, Hsipaw, Loikaw, Hpa-an, Kalaw and Mount Victoria.