YANGON – With the introduction of the Green Season campaign for Myanmar’s low-traffic tourist season beginning in April, the number of foreign visitors to the country has increased, and trips to Buddhist archaeological site Bagan continue all year round.
Tourism has increased 10 percent compared to the first six months of 2016, in which 511,278 visitors came to the country; in 2017 that number was 562,848. The data has been collected from the international arrival departments of the country’s three main international airports—Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw—according to the Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF).
The high season for tourism in Myanmar runs from October to March, so industry stakeholders have been pushing for greater numbers of visitors during the annual monsoon—which has been dubbed the “green season”—from late April to mid October to fill gaps in arrivals.
According to representatives from the MTF, the best places to go during this time are Bagan and Mandalay in central Myanmar and Inle Lake in Nyaung Shwe (Yawnghwe) Township in southern Shan State, which receives less rainfall than Yangon.
“The tourist arrivals in rainy [monsoon] season tend to be lower. It was because of a long-term perception among the tourists that they could not visit Myanmar in the monsoon season,” said Daw May Myat Mon Win, the deputy chairperson of the MTF, who leads tourism marketing.
“Actually, the best time to visit Bagan is in the monsoon season, as it is more beautiful and green,” she said.
The arrival statistics from January to June show “interesting figures,” she said, as there are increases, as of June 2017, of tourists from particular countries: Thailand, China, Singapore, France, Germany, Switzerland, and India.
Thai tourists make up the greatest number of visitors, with more than 110,000 people coming to Myanmar between January and June, followed by Chinese, of whom around 70,000 came during the same period this year.
These figures do not count foreigners who arrive through the border checkpoints, MTF noted, as they said they cannot distinguish them as coming to Myanmar for tourism or business.
Daw May Myat Mon Win said she is positive that the future of Myanmar tourism will improve, as they are promoting travel within the country for both foreign and domestic visitors.
Among the 10 Asean countries, Myanmar stood in second-to-last place for the number of international arrivals, but the nation has seen a boom in domestic tourism.
“We are also hoping more domestic tourists will come to these emerging tourist destinations, as it is also a way of sustaining our tourism industry,” Daw May Myat Mon Win said.
In Bagan, there are also health services available for tourists, provided by the Myanmar Tourist Healthcare Association (MTHA), for outreach support and primary and emergency healthcare.
According to Dr. Kyaw Zin Win, chairman of MTHA, some 50 foreigners and 700 locals have taken advantage of the services in the clinic, which is currently only available in Bagan, but the MTHA continues to provide health services in other destinations, he told The Irrawaddy.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) works with the MTF—which also collaborates with 11 other associations including the MTHA and the Myanmar Tour Guides Association—for the sustainable development of the tourism sector.
The director of the MOHT said Myanmar will also develop a package tour between Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Myanmar’s Bagan later this year under the slogan: “Angkor-Bagan: two ancient capitals, one destination.”
A memorandum of understanding on the implementation of the action plan is being developed for signing in September, said U Hla Myint, director of tourism promotion from the MOHT.
Bagan, which hosts around 300,000 visitors annually, has a smaller number of visitors than Angkor Wat, which is known to receive more than one million people.
“We hope with the development of this package tour, we will have gained more visitors in Bagan,” said U Hla Myint.
New Ecotourism Sites to Open
The MOHT has aimed to increase the number of tourists in the country during the 2017-2018 period, and has initiated the further development of ecotourism projects, as well as community-based tourism initiatives and marine tourism.
Myanmar currently has 21 ecotourism sites, which include 16 existing sites and a handful of underdeveloped ones, as well as 13 community-based tourism projects in Sagaing, Mandalay, Magwe, and Yangon regions and Shan, Karenni and Kachin states. Marine tourism is also available on the Myeik archipelago.
Myanmar will open its new ecotourism site, near Oaktwin and Pauk Khaung townships, in the Bago Yoma forest at the end of July.
The Bago Yoma ecotourism site is located near the No. 43 mile marker on the Yangon-Mandalay highway road. Tourists can explore the local area, which is home to ethnic Karen cultures, as well as trek, ride elephants or look for different species of birds.
When it is opened on July 29, tourists will be able to stay at the new hotel—the Bago Yoma Eco resort—developed by a local company, Phyo Si Thu.
The area can be accessed through Pyay (Prome) or the Taungoo road, and around two days is a sufficient timeframe for the visitors, added U Myint Htwe, the director of public relations and the information department under the MOHT.