YANGON—Amid declining tourists numbers during the first half of the year, the government on Tuesday announced a plan to ease visa requirements for Japanese, South Korean and Chinese citizens effective Oct. 1.
According to the Hotel and Tourism Ministry, citizens of Japan, South Korea and China will be able to request visas on arrival at certain border crossings and/or airports, depending on which of these countries they are from. Chinese passport holders (including those from Hong Kong and Macau SAR) will be charged a visa fee of USD50, but the visas will be free for Japanese and South Korean passport holders.
However, travelers from all three countries will need to show that they are carrying USD1,000 in cash in order to cover expenses for the duration of their stay in the country.
Chinese passport holders will be able to receive visas on arrival at Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw international airports. Japanese and South Korean passport holders will be able to receive them at international airports, as well as at the Tachileik, Myawaddy, Kawthaung and Htee Khee crossings on the Thai border.
The tourist visas apply to independent travelers and members of package tours. They permit holders to stay in Myanmar for 28 days, the ministry said.
Tourists from most countries need to apply in advance for an e-visa, pay a USD50 visa fee and wait at least three working days to obtain visa approval. The duration of the visa is usually 28 days with no extension allowed.
“Tourist numbers have declined compared with last year, especially from Western countries. But Japanese and Korean tourists are always interested in visiting our country among Asian destinations. So, we expect more tourists from those countries,” said U Myint Htwe, deputy director of the ministry.
U Myint Htwe said the government plans to focus more on attracting tourists from Japan and South Korea, two countries with which Myanmar has good diplomatic relations.
In 2017, Thailand topped the list in terms of tourist arrivals to Myanmar, followed by China, Japan and South Korea. About 40 percent of travelers arrived with a pre-arranged tourist visa, according to the Hotel and Tourism Ministry.
The tourism industry’s income has fallen since the humanitarian crisis erupted in northern Rakhine State in August last year. The situation has tarnished the country’s image in the eyes of many Western travelers.
From January to June, roughly 1.8 million visitors entered Myanmar, a drop of roughly 38,000 compared with last year. Overall visitor numbers from the U.S., Canada, the Middle East and Europe have declined significantly in 2018. However, tourism officials still target 7 million annual tourist arrivals by 2020.
“We need more tourists from our region when European and [other] Western tourists can’t come,” U Myint Htwe said.