Myanmar’s VoA move welcome but not enough, says trade

Shwezigon Paya, a Buddhist temple located in Nyaung-U, a town near Bagan

Myanmar’s travel trade has welcomed a move that will see six longhaul source countries granted visa on arrival (VoA), but claim more needs to be done to have a major impact.

From October 1, visitors from Italy, Spain, Russia, Germany, Switzerland and Australia will be allowed to enter the country via Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw international airports, as well as some land crossings, for US$50.

Shwezigon Paya, a Buddhist temple located in Nyaung-U, a town near Bagan

While the industry has welcomed the relaxation in restrictions, member say additional efforts are essential.

Melissa Tan, Khiri Myanmar general manager, said: “It sends the message of Myanmar being very welcoming to European markets.”

However, she added these nations can currently apply for an e-visa, which is approved with email confirmation within less than an hour and costs the same.

Said Tan: “From the DMCs’ point of view, there is little difference as we have been, and will still, encourage guests to get e-visas before flying.”

Sammy Samuels, Myanmar Shalom Travels’ managing director, said the VoA should stimulate “some” growth, adding every year marketing towards European markets is increasing.

He said: “VoA is not key to recovery, but it is a very good initiative and we do hope to see visa-free entry given to some western countries that would attract more travellers.”

While “something is better than nothing”, Hla Aye, managing director of Shan Yoma Travel & Tours, thinks more direct flights from Europe are necessary.

Tan added more regional flights are also needed, with many European visitors travelling to South-east Asia missing out Myanmar due to limited connectivity.

“We’re connected to large destinations like Thailand and Vietnam, but not smaller ones like Cambodia or Laos. The majority of trips we book from Europe to the smaller nations do combine a larger South-east Asian country, but we often miss being considered entirely by not having direct flights.”

As well, Bertie Lawson, Sampan Travel managing director, believes high prices remain a barrier. “The high prices of domestic flights and other transport and activities are larger stumbling blocks. In many aspects, Myanmar remains more expensive than its neighbours, and this is problematic for many would-be visitors.”

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