Ministry criticises slow action on visa-on-arrival proposal

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Tourists visit Botahtaung Pagoda in Yangon on January 8.
Photo: Shin Moe Myint / The Myanmar Times

Hotels and Tourism Union Minister U Ohn Maung criticised the slow action on the ministry’s proposal to issue a visa-on-arrival (VOA) to tourists from China, Japan and South Korea to boost the country’s tourism.

“We thought they (the Immigration Department) would give visas-on-arrival for package tours if visitors arrive by air,” U Ohn Maung told The Myanmar Times. 

Two years ago, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism twice submitted requests for VOAs and other visa exemptions at a meeting with Vice President Henry Van Thio, who chairs the Central Committee for the Development of National Tourism. 

“I’m very upset about the non-implementation of the visa solutions that we have been discussing for two years,” he said.

U Ohn Maung said that if VOAs could be issued to tourists from these three countries, which are long-time partners of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, then more travellers will visit Myanmar.

“If the department can issue visa exemptions for Japanese and South Korean tourists and VOAs for Chinese tourists, it would make it easier for travellers from these countries to come to Myanmar,” he said. 

U Ohn Maung said that travellers from Western countries declined by as much as 40 percent from October 2017 to March 2018, compared with the same period in 2016, because of negative publicity from the humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine State. 

According to the ministry, tourist arrival in February declined by almost five percent to 600,000 compared to the same period in 2017, which recorded 630,000 tourist arrivals. 

U Khin Zaw, an executive of a tour company who has about 30 years’ experience, estimated that visitors from Japan will increase by at least seven percent and travellers from South Korea could rise by five percent if they are given visa exemptions.

U Khin Zaw, who is an adviser to the minister of Hotels and Tourism, added that Chinese visitors could increase by 12pc if they are given VOAs. 

“If travellers from ASEAN, Japan, South Korea and China rise, we can expect tourist arrivals this year to be the same as in 2016-17,” he said.

Daw May Myat Mon Win, chair of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association, said tourism can easily be affected by adverse political and economic developments in a country, as is being experienced now due to the renewed violence in northern Rakhine. 

“Every country has problems. We have to keep doing our work to spread the good news and tell good stories to tourists until the situation improves,” she said.

On the other hand, they should immediately target tourists from short-haul flight destinations and those with direct air links to the country in order to boost arrivals she said.

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