Myanmar announces plan to support embattled tourism sector

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has announced a COVID-19 Tourism Relief Plan to help troubled tourism operators navigate the aftermath of the pandemic.

The plan will be implemented by the ministry in three phases from April 2020 to January 2021, and aims to help rebuild Myanmar’s tourism industry. No budget or details have been provided at this juncture.

The Myanmar Times understands the plan includes cooperation with other ministries and organisations related to the tourism sector as well as the National Tourism Development Committee.

Phase 1 of the COVID-19 Tourism Relief Plan has already taken place between April and June, in the form of low-interest loans to help eligible tourism operators survive the post-pandemic environment. Between April 9 and June 2, over 1000 businesses, including tourism operators, received K37 billion from a K100 billion COVID-19 fund assembled in March, according to U Thaung Tun, Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations.

“The remaining applicants can expect to be green-lighted in June if they meet the criteria set by the Working Committee formed by the government in March to address the impact of COVID-19 on the economy,” U Thaung Tun said on his Twitter feed last week.

Tourism businesses also received tax and other license fees waivers during the period.

Phase 2 of the plan, which involves the reopening of Myanmar tourism, will take place between June and August.

With the number of new COVID-19 cases apparently declidning, the government last week said it would work with neighbouring Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to boost tourism. U Tin Latt, deputy minister of Hotels and Tourism, told a forum on June 1 that Myanmar will introduce regional tourism services with its three neighbours in an attempt to revive the number of tourists to the region.

Meanwhile, some Myanmar tourism companies have also began preparing to organise domestic tours again. Daw Aye Thida Moe, vice chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, told this newspaper that tour companies are awaiting government guidelines to ensure the safe reopening of their businesses, which would focus on domestic tourism first.

The COVID-19 Tourism Relief Plan contains health and safety guidelines for travelers to Myanmar. Arrangements are also being made to operate tours at special rates, promote COVID-19-free destinations and provide digital payment options for travelers.

Myanmar will begin promoting tourism internationally under Phase 3 of the relief plan, which will run from August to January 2021. This will include the easing of travel restrictions, visa exemptions and more. Efforts will also be made to boost local travel and tourism infrastructure and upgrade popular tourist destinations.

For now, Myanmar remains closed to foreign tourists with an international flight ban in place until June 15.

Visitors to Myanmar dropped by 44 percent from January to April as the world grappled with the pandemic.

In 2019, foreign arrivals by land and air in the country rose 23pc to 4.36 million, up from the 3.55 million the previous year, mainly due to so-called zero-budget tourists from China.

Government data showed that Chinese nationals accounted for nearly a third of tourists last year, a 152pc increase from the previous year.

Myanmar’s tourism industry accounts for 6.6pc of the country’s gross domestic product, generating US$4.9 billion dollars in 2017, and employs 1.4 million people.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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