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Challenges ahead as Myanmar breaks own tourism record
Rahul Khanna, Yangon, January 22, 2013
 

ASIAN travellers and FITs have led Myanmar to set a new record for arrivals, but trade players are worried that the country's infrastructure is lagging behind demand.

 

Ministry of Tourism and Hotels data showed close to 1.1 million visited Myanmar in 2012, partially due to political reforms that spurred many countries to lift sanctions and travel boycotts.

 

Yangon, linked to a host of international airlines, welcomed 554,531 visitors, a meteoric 54.3 per cent rise over 2011. Mandalay, Nyaung U and Nay Pyi Taw collectively saw 33,771 visitors, and the remaining 465,614 passed through checkpoints from border nations Thailand, China and India.

 

In terms of source markets, Asia accounts for over 62 per cent of tourists. Thailand represented the single largest group by nationality with 91,817 visitors, followed by Japan (47,501) and China (41,542).

 

Figures show that FITs were the largest group at 232,715 visitors, followed by tourists on group tours (126,036), business travellers (114,456) and social visa holders (37,778).

 

Industry sources expect arrivals to jump more than 30 per cent this year. While Asian countries will continue to supply the most visitors, strong growth is likely in Western markets as the country’s image improves.

 

But the trade has its concerns. Aung Myat Kyaw, managing director of Orchestra Travel and Myanmar Marketing Committee advisor, said: “There has been bigger growth in the number of Asians and US nationals, as few US tourists came in the past due to travel restrictions. Growth will definitely continue in 2013. Hopefully our infrastructure can cope.”

 

Said Phyo Wai Yar Zar, managing director of All Asia Exclusive Travel and Myanmar Marketing Committee chairman: “The job of inbound operators is to optimise services, devise products and provide them to customers in target markets. Since infrastructure (capacity) is outstripped by demand, tour operators will be in a challenging position.”

 

 
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