YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military government will offer visas on arrival to boost the country’s burgeoning tourism industry, a tourism official said on Tuesday.
Din Don Aung, secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, said tourist visas, which are usually arranged at embassies abroad a few days in advance, will now be offered at international airports in Mandalay and the largest city, Yangon.
“We wholeheartedly welcome it,” Thien Tun Aung told Reuters. “I believe this will have a significant impact on visitor numbers in our country.”
He added that the visa costs US$30 and is valid for 28 days.
Despite its abundance of jungles, beaches and mountains, dotted with hundreds of golden Buddhist temples, Myanmar’s tourism industry remains largely untapped.
The total number of tourists to Myanmar in the 2009-2010 financial year was 300,000, compared to 255,288 in the same period last year. Official figures show that some 315,536 people traveled to Myanmar during 2005-2006.
Those figures are dwarfed by neighboring Thailand, which attracted 14.1 million tourists last year.
Many would-be tourists are put off by the bad reputation of the country and its hardline military rulers, who have been accused of corruption, stifling democratic freedoms and presiding over decades of human rights abuses.
Myanmar’s government plans to hold its first elections in 20 years sometime this year and is pushing to privatize numerous industries, including shipping and air travel, in a bid to attract more foreign investment restricted by Western sanctions on the regime. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alex Richardson)