RANGOON — Burma has been listed in the top ten countries to visit in 2017 by renowned travel guide the Lonely Planet.
The country ranked ninth in the ‘Top Countries’ category of the Best in Travel 2017 list.
Canada was named the best country to visit in 2017, followed by Colombia, Finland, Dominica, Nepal, Bermuda, Mongolia and Oman. Ethiopia ranked tenth.
Lonely Planet states that Burma’s “election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future … Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is poised to receive an influx of travelers.”
Burma was ruled by a military junta for half a century, isolating the country from the international community and transforming one of Asia’s most prosperous nations into one of its poorest.
The country’s first fully elected government took office in March this year and the tourism sector is expected to boom.
Tourist arrivals have surged since a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011, from 800,000 in 2011 to 4.68 million in 2015, according to official statistics.
The ministry of hotels and tourism is reportedly predicting 6 million tourist arrivals for 2016.
“Visiting [Burma] comes with its challenges, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal, and where life moves to the timeless rhythm of chanting monks and monastery bells,” Lonely Planet said on its website.
Ma May Myat Mon Win, chairwoman of Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee, said that there are many beautiful tourist attractions and unique destinations in the country but that some places lack infrastructure to meet the travel needs of tourists.
She said the country’s major tourist destinations—Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, and Rangoon—would still be popular sites and that river cruises would also gain popularity in the coming year.
“As we are entering the tourism market last in the region, we need to learn from neighboring countries and ensure that tourism does not have a negative impact on locals” she said.
She mentioned that education and awareness programs will need to be offered in areas expecting an influx of foreign tourists and that other risks associated with increased tourism must be addressed.