The Irrawaddy

Foreign Visitors to Burma Near 750,000 in First Seven Months of 2016

Foreign visitors navigate the debris in popular tourist spot Bagan, a day after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Burma.

RANGOON — Nearly 750,000 foreign nationals arrived in Burma through air and sea ports during the first seven months of 2016, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

Industry observers predict another 500,000 will visit the country as the tourist season resumes in mid-October, pushing total numbers for the year above 1 million.

From January to July 2016, Burma received 740,777 foreign visitors; around 300,000 arrived on tourist visas and 450,000 with other visas, including business visas and student visas. This is more than a four percent increase on the same period of 2015.

Among those on a tourist visa, more than 200,000 arrived through Rangoon’s airport, more than 20,000 through Mandalay’s airport, more than 2,000 through Naypyidaw’s airport, and 8,347 by sea, state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported Monday.

Airport arrivals accounted for 446,415 foreign travelers who came on business and other visas, with 389,306 through the Rangoon airport, 49,252 through the Mandalay airport, and 7,857 through the Naypyidaw airport. Business and other visas arrivals by seaport were 5,301, it said.

Dr. Aung Myat Kyaw, advisor to the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee, predicted a surge before the end of the year. “It’s still rainy season in August and September but October to December is peak tourist season,” he said. “We can expect arrivals by air and sea ports to reach more than 500,000 in those three months.”

The released figures do not include foreign visitors arriving by land, which Aung Myat Kyaw estimates are three times the figures for air and sea ports.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said that of 4.68 million arrivals in Burma in 2015, more than 3.7 million came across land borders from China and Thailand. It predicts 5.5 million foreign visitors in 2016 across air, land and sea ports.

Data from border arrivals includes day-crossings and those making multiple trips for cross-border trade so are often discounted from foreign visitor figures. Since Sept. 1 Burma has accepted electronic visa applications at three border crossings with Thailand, likely to encourage more visitors to enter the country over land.