Travellers are being urged not to give up on Myanmar amid ongoing violent clashes in northern Rakhine State, even as travel advisories are being issued and some cancellations are already being recorded.
The anxious trade is sending out a ‘Myanmar is safe’ message. The mounting conflict has led to several travel warnings against visiting Rakhine State, where troubles are mainly focused on the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung.
This week, Myanmar Tourism Marketing published a map from the UK Foreign Office highlighting green safe areas to visit in the country, with the main tourist hubs of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake all well within safe parameters.
Border areas including Rakhine, Kachin Northern Shan are off-limits.
May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairwoman, said: “We hope for a speedy and peaceful resolution of the situation in Northern Rakhine. Meanwhile, we would like to assure travellers that Myanmar’s key tourist destinations and cities are safe.”
Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, said while the international headlines making their way across the globe will undoubtedly have an impact on the country’s fledgling tourism industry, he added Myanmar has always had restricted areas. He reiterated the majority of the country remains safe to visit.
He said: “The Myanmar government has always been very concerned about the safety of foreigners visiting the country and it is impossible to accidentally travel to a restricted area. I do think that Myanmar continues to be one of the safest places on earth to travel.”
However, some operators are already reporting cancellations, with one source adding: “If this situation continues, we will see the number of visitors for this high season drop. Also, as booking season is now, travellers will not now commit to a Myanmar trip next year.”
It is feared the real effects on the industry will be felt in 2018.
However, Briels added that the “ethical thing” for tourists to do now is “not to give up on Myanmar”. “Continue to visit the country in a sustainable way to support all people from all races and religions,” he added.