By Kyaw Htike Soe
Approximately 4.4 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2019, according to the official data from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population. The ministry said foreign visitors to Myanmar totaled 4,364,100 last year, a 23 per cent increase when compared to 2018. The Southeast Asian country attracted 3,551,428 foreign travellers in 2018 and nearly 40 per cent of whom came from China. The detailed report of tourist arrivals for 2019 was released by the ministry on 24 January.
Arrivals of Chinese travellers to Myanmar increased significantly last year compared to 2018, and topped the list of tourists to the Southeast Asian country, according to the ministry. China being the largest tourist source, Myanmar welcomed a total of 749,719 Chinese tourists in 2019, increasing 152 per cent from the same period in 2018. The chart was followed by Thailand with 273,157 during this period. Japan came as third place with 125,706 arrivals, while South Korea ranked the fourth with 111,794 arrivals. The ease of visa restrictions on Asian tourists has considerably prompted the increase of tourist arrivals last year to 4.37 million, up 812,673 compared to last year. Arrival of Asian tourists especially from Japan and South Korea rose by 50 per cent in 2019.
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. The skyrocketing arrival of Chinese visitors to Myanmar had nearly doubled since visa restrictions were relaxed in October 2018. A total of 77,817 tourists from the United States toured to Myanmar last year, an increase of 3 per cent compared to 2018. But arrival of Europeans from France, United Kingdom and Germany to Myanmar has declined slightly when compared to 2018. With tourism becoming one of its most promising industries, Myanmar is hoping to reach its target of attracting 5 million tourists this year, almost 600,000 higher than 2019. The numbers are increasing but there is a lot of room for improvement of tourism industry.
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.
At the same time, 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 ministry has been making arrangements to attract foreign visitors to the country in cooperation with private tour operators. The ministry of Hotels and Tourism also organized some travel itineraries for tourists who enter the country through border checkpoints. Some tourists enter the country by car or motorbike or bicycle in either groups or crossing alone through border checkpoints to visit significant tourist attraction sites in the country.
Some tourists are very interested in the river cruise tours along Ayeyawady and Chindwin Rivers to enjoy the natural scenery of riverbed villages, visit elephant camps and observe the living style of marine workers and traditional pottery industry. Over 1.25 million tourists entered Myanmar last year through border checkpoints to enjoy its natural landscapes, visit attractive spots and observe a diverse range of cultures and traditions of ethnic tribes. Myanmar earned some US$ 1.9 billion from 3.44 million tourist arrivals in 2017, about US$ 2 billion from 3.55 foreign visitor arrivals in 2018 and around US$ 3 billion from nearly 4.4 million globetrotters. Myanmar’s tourism industry provides up to 1.4 million jobs, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB forecasts Myanmar would earn about US$ 10 billion in revenue from tourism-related industry in 2020.
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. The number of people working in tourism-related jobs was more than 580,000 in 2018, making up over 2.5 % of total employment. 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.