Tourism stakeholders in Myanmar are rallying to mitigate the effects of conflict in the north-western Rakhine region on the country’s overall tourism health, with tour operators working closely with Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM) to dispel fears among potential visitors.
May Myat Mon Win, MTM chairperson, said: “The (affected) Rakhine area is extremely far away from the main tourist hotspots and even from the new destinations we are promoting now. Myanmar remains one of the safest, most secure and authentic Asian destinations.”
For example, Rakhine’s popular Ngapali Beach is “very far” from the “problem area”, said Kay Thwe Soe, managing director of Amazing Time Travels & Tours.
She remarked: “I have been in the tourism business for 24 years, and I have never been there. This is happening at the border, and our government is negotiating with the Bangladeshi government. All we can do is to invite visitors to come and see for themselves how safe it is.”
When asked if tourism arrivals were dented by the Rakhine conflict, Myanmar sellers insisted that travellers are still curious about the destination.
Lucia Martinez, business developer for Option Way, told TTG Asia that she has seen a rise in bookings for Myanmar. She added: “Myanmar is a favourite among Europeans, and we are in constant negotiations with flight operators to fly there. The French particularly are adventurous and like destinations that are not as popular, so they like to discover Myanmar.”
May Myat Mon Win added: “We are very concerned and sorry about the ongoing conflict. This is not an easy problem because of our country’s difficult history for the past 60, 70 years. We hope that this (situation) can be resolved peacefully.”
“It’s very important for tour operators not to turn their back on the rest of Myanmar, and that they support the tourism industry because (there are) a lot of people working in tourism who need this support. These are people from any race and religion,” said Edwin Briels, executive committee member of MTM.