Myanmar tourism businesses prepare to reopen
Myanmar tour companies are preparing to organise tours again, which had been suspended since February as part of the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an official of a local travel association said.
Daw Aye Thida Moe, vice chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, said tour companies are awaiting government guidelines to ensure a safe reopening of their businesses.
“Companies are following the guidelines of the Health Ministry,” she said.
They will focus on the domestic tourism market at first, and improve some destinations. She said they will come up with a marketing scheme to fit the new reality.
“Travel agencies will contact travel agents abroad to inform them about the reopening of the local tourism market,” said Daw Tha Toe Thuzar Aung, managing director of Authentic Myanmar Tourism.
She said safety measures will be implemented for both tourism workers and tourists.
Also, some international airlines have announced the resumption of flights to Yangon starting on June 1.
Myanmar suspended all international commercial flights from March 29 to May 31 as part of its effort to prevent COVID-19.
Thet Lwin Toe, managing director of Myanmar Voyages International Tourism, said, “Visitors have to make adjustments for the travel restrictions when they come.”
Visitors to Myanmar dropped by 44 percent from January to April as the world grappled with the deadly virus that has spread to 188 countries and killed over 345,000 people.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is also preparing for the reopening of tourism, and is planning to stop zero-budget tours, which involve mostly Chinese tourists buying cheap package deals from tour operators registered in Myanmar but owned by Chinese nationals. The packages involve tightly planned itineraries that only patronise shops, hotels and restaurants that are connected to the tour operators.
The ministry said on May 18 that it aims for quality rather than quantity in attracting foreign tourists.
U Aung Aye Han, deputy director general of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, promised a review of zero-budget tours.
In October last year, Myanmar eased visa restrictions on Chinese tourists, triggering a surge in visitors from China.
U Sai Soe Han, a senior Chinese tour guide, welcomed the government plan to review the zero-budget tours, which typically spend less money than tour packages from other countries. Since the tours are booked online, the government cannot collect taxes from these tourists.
In 2019, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said, foreign arrivals by land and air in the country rose 23 percent to 4.36 million, up from the 3.55 million the previous year.
Government data showed that Chinese nationals accounted for nearly a third of tourists who visited last year, a 152pc increase from the previous year.