As Domestic Tourism Reopens in Myanmar, Businesses Struggle to Get Back on Their Feet

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Visitors in Bagan in July 2019.
Photo: Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Domestic travel in Myanmar began to reopen this month, with tourism businesses working to revive the industry as the sector is among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Myanmar confirmed its first COVID-19 cases in late March and the government imposed restrictions on travel, the tourism sector saw revenues plummet to zero in April and May.

In late May, state and regional tourism authorities ran health and safety checks on hotels, restaurants and transportation businesses and issued safety certificates to those that complied with standards from the Ministry of Health and Sports, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT).

Under Myanmar’s September 2018 Tourism Law, local governments can decide whether to close or open tourism in their area. The law granted state and regional governments authority over licenses for hotels, tour companies, tour guides and transportation operators.

Domestic tourists are now slowly starting to return as travel restrictions are lifted, but not in tour groups, according to Daw May Myat Mon Win, the chairwoman of Myanmar Tourism Marketing.

In the second week of June, hotels in Kalaw, a popular destination in southern Shan State, became busy again with domestic tourists.

Daw Cho Cho Lwin, owner of Kalaw Vista Bed & Breakfast, said that tourists have returned in the last three weeks—both locals and foreigners living in the country—but that the numbers amount to only about half of what they saw in previous years.

“It won’t reach the level that we had before in this new normal situation but we are hoping for unexpected local tours,” she told The Irrawaddy.

In Kalaw, 34 out of 58 hotels are back to operating as normal after Shan State health and tourism authorities permitted them to reopen with new guidelines and preventative measures.

Domestic tourists are also travelling to other destinations including Hpa-an in Karen State and Bagan. According to the MOHT, more than 800 hotels in 12 regions and states have reopened in June and other hotels are still undergoing checks for health and safety.

Daw May Myat Mon Win said that around 100 people travelled to Hpa-an per day last week and that the level of traffic is good for businesses in this period.

“We have to help each other to survive and domestic travel is so far the only way to revive the economy. The ministry [MOHT] and the private sector are working together to promote domestic travel,” said Daw May Myat Mon Win.

Under the ministry’s Tourism Relief Plan, the government has laid out three phases for the revival of the tourism industry.

Read the full article at The Irrawaddy: https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/domestic-tourism-reopens-myanmar-businesses-struggle-get-back-feet.html

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