Myanmar rolls out plans to boost domestic tourism

Myanmar is taking efforts to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 in the country by extending measures such as a ban on international commercial flights and
large social gatherings. But these restrictions have hit tourism hard, and the sector is now struggling to find viable options to survive the collapse in tourist
arrivals.International commercial flights to Myanmar have been suspended since March 31, a week after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the country. The
government has extended this ban several times since then, and international flights are officially prohibited until July 31.
With flights suspended and regional tourism expected to open up only in the third quarter, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is going ahead with some immediate
plans to boost domestic tourism in Myanmar, U Tin Latt, Deputy Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, told The Myanmar Times.

These include lifting all the quarantine measures between states and regions, gradually opening tourism destinations in the country with physical distancing guidelines in place, establishing destination management organisations to enforce those guidelines, launching domestic travel campaigns by cooperating with the media, asking for funds from the COVID-19 Economic Mitigation Committee to launch incentive programs offering travel coupons to healthcare personnel and volunteers, and providing tax rebates and reliefs to tourism operators, he said.
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Travel local
Some of these plans are starting to take shape. The Magwe Region Government has started arrangements to develop an ecotourism zone on 60 acres of land one mile
away from Man Shwe Settaw Pagoda and near Hlay Tin Bridge, said U Myint Sein, Deputy Director at the Directorate of Hotel and Tourism (Magwe).
“The regional government is working on an investment plan. Although the details haven’t been calculated, the project is expected to cost over K 2 billion,” he said. If approved, development will commence in 2021 and take two years to complete.The aim for the project is to cater to holiday makers in a natural environment. This will include accommodation in bamboo chalets and opportunities for local animal
and bird watching as well.

The project is also expected to benefit from an influx of pilgrims during the Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival between February and April.
“Most of the guests are Myanmar people but if more foreigners come, the shops will enjoy more profit and the economy will be in better shape. This year, we had to
shut down the stalls and go home,” said U Myint Kyaing, who sells souvenirs during the Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival.The Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) and Association of Buddhist Tourism Operators (ABTO) have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding topromote regional Buddhist tours between Asian countries when the sector opens up further in the third quarter, said U Naung Naung Han, chair of UMTA.

The ABTO was formed by tour operators from Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. It provides Buddhist tour packages for the member countries.
As Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist country, it has good potential to promote Buddhism tours and border crossing tours among the Buddhist countries of Asia,
according to the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association. Before COVID-19, there were Buddhist tours for Myanmar nationals to India, Nepal and Siri Lanka
and between 35,000 and 40,000 tourists from Myanmar visited the Bodh Gaya religious site in India every year.
“There will be plenty of opportunities for Buddhist tourism in the region and growth potential as well when borders are opened up,” said a local tour operator.
Domestic discounts.In the meantime, aligning with the country’s ongoing efforts to bolster domestic tourism, Myanmar National Airlines (MNA) announced that it is offering a 20 percent discount on local flight tickets in celebration of the firm’s 70th Anniversary this year.
Domestic air tickets are available at special prices from July 16 to 31 for travel between July 16 and December 31 at airport ticket counters, travel and tour agencies, and the airline’s website. MNA flies to more than 20 domestic destinations in Myanmar such as Yangon, Mandalay, Nyaung-U, Heho, Myitkyina, Sittwe, Dawei, Lashio, Tachileik, Monywa, Homalin, Hkamti, and Kalay.
“It is good to reduce the price for domestic air tickets as there has been a dramatic decline in travel. For now though, demand is still at a trough and only passengers who have urgent reasons to travel are buying flight tickets,” said one owner of a travel and tour agency.
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According to data provided by the Yangon International Airport, there were only 13,151 domestic landings and take-offs between January and June, representing a
decline of 22 pc compared to the same period last year.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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