Burma

Tourist Arrivals in Myanmar Will Drop 50% Over COVID-19: Tourism Ministry

By Myat Pyae Phyo 13 March 2020

MANDALAY—Tourist arrivals in Myanmar are likely to fall by half this year amid the global coronavirus outbreak, according to Deputy Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Tin Latt.

“Chinese tourists account for around 25 percent of tourists to Myanmar. As Chinese people have  stopped travelling, we are likely to lose that 25 percent. Travelers from Western countries, Japan and Korea have also cancelled their trips, so tourist arrivals will drop by 20 to 50 percent this year,” the deputy minister told The Irrawaddy.

Before the alarming spread of coronavirus, Myanmar saw over 200,000 tourist arrivals in January—a 25 percent increase from the same period last year, in which Myanmar saw over 160,000 foreign tourists.

As the coronavirus has spread across the globe in February and March, many travelers have cancelled their trips. Some airlines have also suspended operations and some countries have denied visas to foreign travelers who have visited countries where the virus is present.

While over 4.3 million foreign travelers visited Myanmar last year, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism predicts that only around 2 million will visit the country this year.

Chairman of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association U Naung Naung Han said the association is working together with relevant organizations to survey the impact of coronavirus on Myanmar’s tourism industry and collect data about the decline in tourist arrivals.

“For the time being, we are not able to measure the overall impact on the tourism industry. “But we predict a greater decline in tourist arrivals than the Hotel Ministry has predicted,” U Naung Naung Han told The Irrawaddy.

“Health and safety should take precedence over economic impacts, no matter how large the economic impacts might me. I hope the government will be able to take remedial measures when things return to normal,” he added.

With the tourist high season ending in June as rainy season arrives, Myanmar’s tourism industry is likely to be hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. The monsoon season—from June to October—is the off season for Myanmar’s tourism sector.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Since the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, China in December, the death toll has topped 4,900. Outside China, Italy has seen the highest number of fatalities, with over 1,000 deaths.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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