By Kyaw Htike Soe
Myanmar welcomed over 3.52 million tourists during the period from January to October this year, according to the figures from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population. International travelers who toured the “Golden Land” in the first ten months this year totaled more than 3.52 million, making a 24 per cent increase when compared with the same period last year, the ministry said. Nearly 380,000 tourists visited the Southeast Asian country in October alone.
Chinese tourist arrivals to Myanmar increased by 161 per cent this year compared to the same period last year, and topped the list of tourists visiting the country, according to the ministry. China is Myanmar’s number one source market with nearly 600,000 January to October arrivals. The figure was followed by Thailand with 218,167 tourists during this period and Japan came as third place with 101,996 visitors, while South Korea ranked the fourth with 91,869 tourists. But tourist arrivals from the United States saw a slight increase from 49,705 to 50,771, an increase of 3 per cent compared to the same period last year. The ease of visa restrictions on Asian tourists has significantly prompted the significant increase of tourist arrivals in the first ten months of 2019 to 3.52 million, rose by 436,098 compared with the same period last year. The skyrocketing arrival of Chinese tourists to Myanmar had nearly doubled since visa restrictions were relaxed in October 2018.
But arrival of Europeans to Myanmar declined slightly this year when compared to last year. Arrival of Chinese tourists to Myanmar is up by nearly 70 per cent than previous year thanks to Myanmar’s visa-on-arrival allowance to visitors from six more countries commencing 1 October last year. Due to the sharp inflow of Chinese visitors to Myanmar this year, Myanmar authorities are exerting efforts to further expand travel routes and promote the tourism industry by attracting global airlines to the country. Myanmar continues to attract a steady stream of foreign visitors to the country. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism projected 6 million tourists would visit Myanmar after the rainy season this year. The government is seeking all possible ways to lure more tourists to the country by organizing international invitational sports events and showcasing cultural heritages and traditional food.
The government has been launching new destinations and creating ecotourism for globetrotters as well as conducting language proficiency courses and basic tour guide training courses for human resource development. The government paves the way for promoting the ecotourism in cooperation with private tour operators. “Myanmar has plenty of natural resources including fantastic natural scenery, social status and traditional culture of the ethnic people. Myanmar is a very promising country for the businessmen at home and abroad who want to operate tourism industry. The tourism sector is the most promising business in Myanmar. If tourism industry booms in Myanmar, there will be more job opportunities for local people inevitably,” said an official from the ministry who declined to be named.
Myanmar’s tourism industry could provide up to 1.4 million jobs by 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB forecasts 7 million foreign visitor arrivals to Myanmar in 2020 and US$ 10 billion in revenue in the same year. The number of people working in tourism-related jobs was more than 580,000 in 2018, making up over 2.5 % of total employment. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), total contribution of tourism sector to Myanmar’s economy was US$ 4.9 billion or 66.6 % of GDP in 2017. Total contribution of tourism is forecast to expand by 7 % per year to US$ 10.1 billion or 7 % of GDP by 2028. By 2028 the sector is forecast to directly account for 914,000 job opportunities, an average increase of 4.6 annually over the next decade.
Myanmar fetched some US$ 2 billion from 3.55 foreign visitor arrivals in 2018. The Southeast Asian country also earned US$ 1.9 billion from 3.44 million tourist arrivals in 2017 and US$ 2.1 billion from nearly 3 million international visitor arrivals in 2016, according to the government’s figures.