Govt eases visa rules for China, Japan and South Korea
Vice President U Henry Van Thio announces the easing of visa regulations for visitors from China, Japan and South Korea in a bid to entice more tourists.
THE government hopes to entice more visitors from Japan, South Korea and China by easing visa regulations for travelers from these countries, which have been the main source of foreign tourists for the country in recent years.
Attending the Myanmar Tourism Conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday, Vice President U Henry Van Thio announced the loosening of visa procedures for the three countries, but did not provide details.
The vice president said Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea shore up the country’s tourism sector after a decline in the number of European tourists due to the humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine State.
U Henry Van Thio urged tourism stakeholders to take advantage of the 42 percent rise in intra-ASEAN travellers.
The number of international tourists ASEAN countries received in 2016 jumped from 115 million to 125 million in 2017, he said.
“We should do more to attract regional visitors from ASEAN countries to Myanmar,” said U Henry Van Thio.
He stressed the importance of having enough funds for Myanmar businesses to participate in international tourism expos to lure more visitors, and said that securing the funds would be a challenge.
“As the government is making efforts for multi-lateral development, there would be difficulty in budget allocation for the development of tourism,” U Henry Van Thio said, while calling for cooperation among domestic private tour businesses in tackling challenges.
He said local businesses in the sector should adjust the prices they charge for services such as hotels and transportation to ensure they are not higher than the international rate, while ensuring that the services are worth the money tourists are spending.
The high cost of traveling in Myanmar has been a factor that hinders tourism due to the airline industry’s exclusive business environment and a crippling internal infrastructure and logistics.
U Kyaw Min Htin, joint secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, told the conference that hotel prices and air transportation costs are still higher than in other countries.
Because of the high cost of touring in Myanmar, “airlines might be less interested in setting up a direct flights to the country”, said Daw Su Su Tin, an adviser at Myanmar Tourism Marketing.
The Union of Myanmar Travel Association submitted to the conference six critical issues that the tourism sector has struggled with, including double taxation, lack of vocational training and education in tourism, tourism business challenges, and investment policy and opportunities.
Calling for cooperation between government and businesses in the travel industry, U Henry Van Thio suggested they work together under “public-private partnership” schemes.
“If we could sell Myanmar’s national brand and image, I am sure we will see more international visitors while uplifting our nation’s reputation,” he said.
U Htin Kyaw, Myanmar’s former president, and his wife Daw Su Su Lwin attended the conference as special guests.
Since the violence erupted in Rakhine in 2016, Myanmar has faced intense international pressure over alleged human rights abuses, which resulted in the decline of tourist arrivals from Western countries.
Former president U Htin Kyaw (left) and Vice President U Henry Van Thio chat during the conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.