Myanmar Regime Wants to Welcome Back Chinese Tourists

By The Irrawaddy 13 May 2021

Myanmar’s military regime is pressing ahead with plans to promote Chinese tourism to the country, despite the political crisis caused by the junta’s Feb. 1 coup and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Military-controlled newspapers said U Maung Maung Ohn, the junta-appointed Minister for Hotels and Tourism (MOHT), made inspection tours of hotels and tourist sites in the commercial capital Yangon on Wednesday to assess their readiness for the potential arrival of Chinese tourists.

U Maung Maung Ohn met with officials working to promote tours from China to discuss how to bring Chinese tourists to Myanmar in ways that accord with current COVID-19 regulations.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has risen dramatically in Myanmar following the coup, amid the widespread belief that Beijing is backing the military regime. But U Maung Maung Ohn said that Chinese tourists will bring income into the country and boost local employment opportunities.

During the meeting they also discussed plans to facilitate the smooth flow of Chinese tourists, according to the military-controlled newspapers.

Visitors from China, which borders Myanmar in the southwest of the country, were the top foreign travelers to Myanmar in 2018 and 2019, with Chinese tourists able to apply for visas on arrival.

In 2020, the China-Myanmar Culture and Tourism Year was launched during China’s President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw, which was hosted by the ousted National League for Democracy government. Both sides agreed to invite more Chinese tourists to Myanmar.

However, the plan was postponed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Myanmar’s tourism industry has been one of the sectors of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic. Tourism revenue has dropped by as much as 75 percent since March last year.

On Wednesday, the military-controlled MRTV said that the regime wants to promote Chinese tours to Myanmar as they had a previous agreement to do so.

Despite the junta’s deadly crackdowns on anti-regime protesters, the MOHT minister has visited several tourism-related sites in the country since March, including Ayeyarwady Region and Shan State, to see how tourism can be resumed in the country. The MOHT has also allowed hotels to reopen in popular tourist destinations such as Chaung Tha beach, Taunggyi and Inle Lake.

The promotion of Chinese tourism comes after the regime’s extension of entry restrictions to Myanmar for all travelers to the end of May.

Myanmar reported 23 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the national tally to 142,997. There have been 3,211 reported deaths, according to military-controlled media.

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