Launching domestic travel with national health guidelines should open door to jump-start tourism with regional countries

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Local and foreign travelers cross U Bein Bridge over Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay. Photo: Nyi Zaw Moe

As the global tourism industry struggles in the midst of this unprecedented downturn, many nations around the world are preparing for a boom in international visitors once travel is more feasible – for some countries, this could be their first opportunity to establish themselves as a prominent regional force for tourism.
Meanwhile, the Forbes Magazine has mentioned our country as one of the seven countries which have potential to become major tourist destinations in a post-COVID World.
We should start domestic travel by enforcing COVID-19 health guidelines including social distancing, hand washing and face masks wearing at domestic destinations.
We have smartly reopened the businesses, including restaurants, markets, hotels, factories and transport sector with the health guidelines in the midst of the COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on travel, with the UN World Tourism Organization estimating that international tourism could decline by up to 80% this year over 2019, putting at least 100 million jobs at risk.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of international travellers to our country has decreased from over 400,000 in January 2020 to about 100 in April.
The economic carnage from two months of closures in our country is hurting our people.
We are committed to making a success of the domestic travel bubbles to ensure jobs for those who has been selling souvenirs on the street to businesses connected with travel.
Our next step should be to create “travel bubbles” with regional countries such as Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia that have similar success in containing the coronavirus pandemic as a way to bring back visitors who stopped travelling due to the health crisis.
For regional travel bubbles, a former UNWTO director suggested to use China as an example because domestic travel within China is like international travel distance-wise. We can use his idea to launch the regional travel bubbles with the regional countries.
However, we need to balance health concerns with economic concerns. We are still fighting the pandemic as the coronavirus infection cases are still occurring.
To launch domestic travel with new strategies, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is drafting the Tourism National Guideline Beta version.
But, for travel bubbles with regional countries, we need to discuss and seek ways for developing a COVID-19 safety travel system with them.

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