Myanmar’s outbound tourism has continued to thrive year over year, according to overseas tour agencies.
Some Myanmar holidaymakers are going for self-planned trips, while some are opting for guided overseas trips offered by tour agencies.
According to tour operators, Myanmar people are mostly travelling to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Bodh Gaya, India, Nepal, China, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Jordan, South Korea, the US, and Europe.
“The most popular destinations are Bangkok, Singapore, Bodh Gaya, India, and Nepal. Some people are also vacationing in South Korea, China, and Hong Kong. Most people are visiting countries which grant visa-exemptions to tourists carrying normal passports. Some are opting for countries that have easy visa requirements. Western countries, especially in Europe and the US, have become popular destinations for Myanmar travelers,” said U Thet Lwin Toe, the chair of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association.
Myanmar travelers prefer holidaying in visa-free countries, said overseas tour operators.
“Visa-free countries are popular among travelers. Some overseas tour agencies are organizing monthly trips to Viet Nam,” said an agent with ET (Eastward Travel) Tour.
Some agents are reportedly facing difficulties as customers are even choosing against countries offering visa-exemptions.
“Visa exemptions are offered by countries such as Japan, South Korea, Macau, and Hong Kong. But, travelers still need to apply for visas in order to visit those destinations. Some travelers do not want to bother applying for visas and are choosing to go to visa-free countries only,” said an agent with Beautiful Memories Travels and Tours.
We also don’t have many options when it comes to choice of flights, she added.
“A small number of airlines are operating from Myanmar. There are only two or three flights to Europe. Similarly, there are two flights to Korea,” she said.
According to data from the Hotels and Tourism Department under the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar had 2,712 tour companies as on December, 2018, of which 553 held outbound tour licences. The department does not have details of outbound travelers, but efforts are on to collaborate with other departments to compile data.
“We cannot provide data for outbound tourism. Frankly, companies do not provide actual numbers of outbound travelers. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population (MOLIP) might have the figures. We are planning to link with them,” said U Tint Zaw Myint, the Deputy Director of the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism.
“The MOLIP does not have close links or contact with us. According to data provided by members of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, there are around 500,000 outbound travelers every year,” said U Thet Lwin Toe.
“The number of travelers headed to Bodh Gaya annually does not reach 100,000. Data from outbound tour agencies shows around 50,000-60,000 travelers go to Bodh Gaya every year,” he added.
“Moreover, the related departments are strict about issuing licences to outbound tour agencies as, in their view, those businesses contribute to an outflow of revenue,” said U Thet Lwin Toe.
“It is hard for outbound tour agents to obtain a licence. It seems, the department is not very supportive of outbound tourism. The government no longer contributes to Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Associations. Outbound tourism can help travelers gain knowledge and find new opportunities,” he said.
“At present, outbound tourism is booming in Myanmar. Tourist arrivals are also growing year over year. Tourist arrivals stood at 3.44 million in 2017 and 3.55 million in 2018. The arrival rate increased by 3.15 per cent in 2018 compared with 2017,” said Vice President U Henry Van Thio, who is also the chair of the National Tourism Development Central Committee, at a meeting held in Hotel Max, Nay Pyi Taw, on 26 February.
“Myanmar has adopted a Look East policy, granting visa exemptions to tourists from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau, to attract more Asian travelers and boost the tourism industry. Travelers from China and India, holding normal passports, can also get visa-on-arrival at Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw international airports,” he said. (Translated by Ei Myat Mon)