Myanmar

Myanmar tourist arrivals to drop 50% compared to COVID-19: Ministry of Tourism

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MANDALAY – Tourist arrivals to Myanmar may halve this year due to the global coronavirus outbreak, according to U Tin Latt, Deputy Minister of Hotels and Tourism.

“Chinese tourists make up about 25 percent of tourists in Myanmar. As the Chinese stop traveling, we are likely to lose that 25 percent. Tourists from Western countries, Japan and South Korea have also canceled their trips, so the number of tourists this year will drop by 20 percent to 50 percent,” the deputy minister told The Irrawaddy.

Before the coronavirus spread at an alarming rate, Myanmar welcomed more than 200,000 tourists in January, up 25 percent from a year earlier, including more than 160,000 foreign tourists.

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

More than 4.3 million foreign tourists visited Myanmar last year, but the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism predicts only about 2 million foreign tourists will visit the country this year.

U Naung Naung Han, chairman of the Federation of Myanmar Tourism Associations, said the association is working with relevant organizations to investigate the impact of the coronavirus on Myanmar’s tourism industry and collect data on the drop in tourist arrivals.

“Currently, we cannot measure the overall impact on the tourism industry. “But we predict a larger drop in tourist arrivals than the hotel ministry forecast,” U Naung Naung Han told The Irrawaddy.

“Health and safety should take precedence over the economic impact, no matter how big it is. I hope the government will be able to take remedial measures when things return to normal,” he added.

With the arrival of the rainy season and the peak tourist season ending in June, Myanmar’s tourism industry may be hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. The monsoon season from June to October is the low season for tourism in Myanmar.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. More than 4,900 people have died since the virus broke out in Wuhan, China, in December. Outside of China, Italy has the highest death toll with more than 1,000.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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