With Asian markets dominating in the face of declining European arrivals, Myanmar tourism players are shifting their focus to intra-regional travellers.
The Asian market accounted for 70 per cent of international arrivals to Myanmar in 2017. Growth in the market is led by Vietnamese visitors, with a 75 per cent year-on-year increase at Yangon International Airport (YIA), followed by the Philippines with a 62 per cent hike and Singapore by 20 per cent.
Thailand and China topped the arrivals chart, with YIA welcoming more than 230,000 and 140,000 respectively in 2017.
While Asian arrivals have increased, Western visitors have declined. The North American market fell by three per cent, while West Europe only saw a two per cent increase, with the traditionally strong markets of France plummeting 10 per cent, Germany 22 per cent and the UK two per cent.
Minister of hotels and tourism, U Ohn Maung, said the growth of regional markets has been bolstered by a visa waiver that has been in place for about a year for many South-east Asian countries. Additionally, the ministry is currently looking into developing a special visa on arrival for ASEAN countries plus three others – China, South Korea and Japan.
May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairperson, said this year will see an increase in digital marketing campaigns aimed at this segment, with the organisation actively targeting China. She said: “We’ve never done any marketing in China before, so this is a first.”
Min Than Htut, founder of Pro Niti Travel, added that while their traditional strong markets of the UK, the US and Canada will remain the main focus, this year will see them target parts of Asia – mainly Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. “We think Asia is where we have to go this year,” he said.
With the rise of inbound arrivals, Bertie Lawson, managing director of Sampan Travel, reminded that it is essential that responsible tourism is promoted, especially with the growing number of sustainable sites across Myanmar.