Myanmar grants free visa allowances to Asian visitors

Myanmar will grant free visa allowances to Chinese, South Korean and Japanese nationals from August 1 onwards in a bid to promote eco-tourism, according to U Ohn Maung, Minister of Hotel and Tourism, during an economic seminar organised last week by the Thai embassy in Yangon and the Thai Business Association in Myanmar.

The developments comes after local tourism has taken a hit from dwindling visitors from the West, who have scaled down travel to Myanmar in view of the refugee crisis in Rakhine. It also coincides with the enforcement of the new Myanmar Companies Law on August 1, which will enable foreign investors to own up to 30 percent in the shares of local companies and grant investors up to 7 years of tax free operations.

“In the tourism industry in Myanmar, [the free visas] provide the best [environment] for new investments because the new law has given opportunities to foreign investors. There are also natural resources such as coral reefs which can attract tourism investments,” U Ohn Maung said during the seminar.

Western tourists dwindle

Myanmar is wooing visitors from its Asian supporters as tourists from western nations such as the UK and US dwindle.

U Kyaw Swa Min, managing director of Grand Lotus travel and tour, told The Myanmar Times earlier this month that some operators in the local tourism industry have started giving employees three months of unpaid leave after seeing many cancelations of booked trips to Myanmar from UK and US tourists.

According to the U Kyaw Swa Min, UK tourist arrivals are down 40 pc compared to 2017.

Other tour operators and hotels are considering other cost-cutting measures to cope with the declining income, as most UK travel companies are no longer selling travel packages to Myanmar, while the market demand from France is weak, said U Phyo Wai Yar Zar, an adviser of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association.

Chinese demand

On the other hand, the number of Chinese tourists arriving in Mandalay has increased this year, according to the region’s Directorate of Hotels and Tourism. The Chinese ranked first in the list of visitors to Mandalay in the first half of this year, assistant director U San Yu was quoted by state media as saying.

In total, more than 230,000 tourists visited Mandalay between January and June this year, which is a decrease of more than 5,000, official data revealed.

The government is expecting tourist arrivals from China, South Korea and Japan to pick up during the second half of the year after the visa allowances are implemented though. In total, it is expecting some 500,000 visitors to Mandalay this year.

Source: Myanmar Times

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