Easing of Dutch travel warning stokes Myanmar’s hopes for European recovery

Ngapali Beach in Thandwe, a town in the Rakhine State

Hopes have been raised that European interest in Myanmar will grow after the Dutch government recently softened its safety travel advice.

On October 10, the official Dutch travel safety advice for Myanmar was downgraded to the safest level for main tourist areas, where Yangon, Naypyidaw, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake now feature as green on the map.

Ngapali Beach in Thandwe, a town in the Rakhine State

This brings the country’s safety warnings over Myanmar in line with Singapore, Australia and Europe.

Travel restrictions have also been lifted on Southern Rakhine State, home to Ngapali Beach. On the map, it has shifted from red to yellow. Dutch authorities have also deemed it safe to visit Lashio and Hsipaw, as well as encouraged the use of tourist guides while trekking.

The move has prompted hopes that interest in Myanmar from the Netherlands and other European countries will be rekindled.

Edwin Briels, general manager at Khiri Travel Myanmar, said: “Generally the Dutch market, together with the UK and Scandinavian markets, are the most sensitive (when it comes to) bad publicity about human rights issues. These markets react very hastily and stop travelling (to affected locations) without realising this causes problems locally for individual people who have nothing to do with the situation.”

Sammy Samuels, managing director of Myanmar Shalom Travels, believes the downgrade will lead to an increase in Dutch travellers, while also encouraging other European countries to reinvest in the country.

Said Samuels: “We definitely hope the downgrading will help stimulate growth from other European markets, and that other European embassies based in Yangon will follow this example and actively advocate to their governments and citizens that Myanmar is safe.”

Hla Aye, Union of Myanmar Travel Association chairman, said the country’s tourism industry has suffered from huge dips in European and other longhaul markets this year. He expects it will take at least two years for the trade to recover.

The travel warnings were first put in place following the Rohingya crisis in northern Rakhine State. As of August, Dutch tourist arrivals registered a decrease of 26 per cent as compared with the previous year.

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