Tourist arrivals rise 3.15% in ’18

Myanmar received over 3.55 million foreign tourists last year, a 3.15 percent increase over the 3.44 million in 2017, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

“During 2018, tourist arrivals from western countries were low, and most visitors came from Asia, so the amount of tourism income will be different than last year, but the exact figure is still being determined,” U Myo Win Nyunt, director of the ministry, said on Tuesday.

The country earned US$1.9 billion from 3.44 million tourist arrivals in 2017, but it expects tourism income to decrease for last year because of fewer western travellers, he said.

The length of stay and spending power of western travellers and Asian travellers are quite different, according to the ministry.

Tourism income is calculated based on spending for accommodation, visas, local transportation, restaurants, attraction entrance fees, souvenirs, entertainment and donations, he said.

“We conduct surveys of these factors when they leave the country,” U Myo Win Nyunt said.

Myanmar earned US$2.1 billion from 2.9 million tourist arrivals in 2016.

The ministry changed the system of counting tourist arrivals in 2016, when the National League for Democracy took power after decades of military rule.

Tourism had good potential for growth before the 2017 Rakhine State crisis destroyed all the expectations of the ministry and tourism stakeholders.

“At that time, we were expecting to reach the level of Cambodia – four or five million tourists. We need to develop new tourism products, destination management, direct long-haul flights to western countries, more visa relaxation for western countries,” U Khin Aung Htun, vice chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, said.

Owners of tourism businesses say they are changing their target markets from west to east, but the problem is some Chinese operators are similarly entering the country with “zero-dollar” tours.

“The country has nearly 70,000 rooms with over half of them empty, so at least Chinese tourists can fill some of the vacancies,” he said.

The 3.55 million tourists in 2018 included 1.3 million who came by air, and 9370 by cruise ship. Of the total, 1.4 million came with visas and 2.2 million came through border crossings, according to the ministry.

“We don’t yet know the breakdown of overland travellers, but most of those entering at border crossings were Chinese. We hope to implement a system soon to collect data on these travellers,” he said.


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