I would like to greet all the attendees at the National Tourism Development Central Committee meeting (1/2020) by wishing them good health and happiness.
At the committee’s meeting (1/2018) on 3 August 2018, I said that the tourism industry has become a crucial business not only for our country but also for the entire world.
If we want tourists to visit our country, we shouldn’t think that they are just our opportunity for making money and must think that they are human beings like us who want happiness and peace.
If we fulfil their desires for happiness and pleasure as our opportunity during their visiting moments, more world travellers will visit our country.
In order to attract more world travellers to Myanmar, our government permitted visa exemption and granted an arrival visa for them.
We also improved arrangements for border crossing trip, railway travel, and cruises so that world travellers can enjoy our country’s culture and natures when they stop on their ways.
Community-based tourism for the world visitors who want to know deeply about our traditions and cultures has been encouraged, and the role of small businesses such as safe and inexpensive guesthouses and small hotels were also promoted for the visitors’ health.
As most of the foreign visitors are interested in our traditional foods, we have to adopt policies on selling clean and hygienic foods at small shops, mobile foods vans and small restaurants at reasonable price.
In 2019, more than 4.3 million foreign travellers visited Myanmar as we encouraged nature-based tourism by arranging trips for winter bird watching at wetland forests, opening elephants camps with the elephants that are no longer used in the timber industry, and watching Ayeyawady dolphins that are fishing together with local fishermen.
At present the tourism industry around the world has completely stopped as foreign visitors were prohibited from entry to the countries, commercial flights were suspended, and tourism destinations were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Our country could rather control the first wave of the COVID-19 by imposing travel restrictions and banning crowds since April 2020. Meanwhile, the entire tourism industry has been damaged due to the suspension of foreign and local tourism industries following the closures of seasonal festivals like Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival, traditional festivals like Thingyan Festival and festivals at all famous pagodas.
The first batch of distributing K15, 000 worth of foods each for the households who don’t have regular incomes was already conducted, and the second batch of distributing K20,000 each for 5.4 million households was being arranged.
In the businesses recovery process, which aimed the owners to continue their businesses and staff to get employment, bank interest rates were reduced, licenses taxes were exempt for a period, taxes collection were postponed, and loans amounting to K100 billion with 1 per cent interest rate were provided for some garment factories, hotels and tourism businesses, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Additional loans of K200 to 500 billion will be provided so that businesses owners can give salaries to their employees during the suspension of their businesses. The loans will be paid back in the designated period after reopening of the businesses.
Hotels and tourism businesses need to focus on the local tourism industry while the arrivals of international commercial flights are still banned. In the process, the safety of tourism services staff will be given priority.
Government officials concerned, businesspersons, and staff will cooperate on following health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
It is also important to monitor and supervise the people who failed to abide by the health guidelines because human nature is to become careless of the disciplines that they previously abided by in the beginning out of fear.
Although the hotel and tourism industry served mainly for the foreign tourists before, it has to restart the operation, especially with the local travellers now. And so, they have to consider about the different nature between the local and foreign travellers including their expectations and financial status.
If you make preparations with local travellers for the post-COVID period starting from now, you will be ready when the foreign tourists come here. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the tours were suspended at all and if they are reopened, they will make efforts competitively to lure the tourists. So, we need to prepare by considering how to attract the travellers unlike the other countries.
Meanwhile, it is absolutely essential that we should do to develop the quality of tour destinations and to conserve the natural environment of new destinations. So, the ministries concerned, business people and organizations that include local residents should conserve or implement without waiting for the government’s efforts.
During the post-COVID-19 period, we need innovative ideas to restart tourism. Please think about new ideas. We have to implement these innovative ideas with the most effective ways. Please be in-sight of the country’s sustainable development in implementing these sectors.
The Union comprises many ethnic groups. Whatever you do, I want you to do without neglecting the good sake of our Union. In carrying out the tourism sector, I want you all to cooperate for the interest of all nationalities instead of doing just for one region or state. I want the ethnic nationals to be very close to each other or to be united more due to the tourism industry without competing for each other and I just want to gain balanced growth in all regions and states. I wish for the emergence of a tourism industry that could bring good interests for our people as quickly as possible and it also could provide for the development of socio-economic effectively.
I thank you all.
(Translated by Kyaw Zin Tun, Khine Thazin Han)