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Myanmar Travel To Reach New Milestone In 2015

2015 will be a milestone for Myanmar when most of the travel glitches will be smoothed out tourism leaders’ have promised.

Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board, executive committee member for tourism training, Phyu Phyu Mar, who represented the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism at the Thailand Travel Mart said plans to reintroduce visa-on-arrival for tourists would be resumed shortly.

“Ministry of Immigration and Population has to consider all aspects including security and study the benefits a visa-on-arrival would yield and whether it is worthwhile.  But a review is due soon,” she said.

Visa difficulties rankle tourists who often have to waste up to a week waiting for an embassy to clear paperwork.

Although tourism is opening up, there has been no clear indicator when the country will comply with the ASEAN requirement that all 10 member states should allow visa free entry for up to 14 days for ASEAN region citizens.

That would be the most obvious concession to apply as AEC approaches in 2015 when free trade and the free movement of labor is guaranteed within the community.

The country offered business travelers a visa-on-arrival last year, while a VOA for tourists was available for a short period in 2010. It has since been suspended.

Also the government has tried to facilitate visas by offering online application through www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm, but it has faced obstacles.

Ms Phyu Phyu Mar said the service should be available by end of 2015 when the ASEAN Economic Community officially starts.

Even the visa-on-arrival that is in place for business visitors requires a letter of invitation from a government department or commercial enterprise. It is essentially a pre-processed visa that is activated at the airport by immigration officials. It is not the standard visa-on-arrival that allows visitors to complete all the paperwork on site at the airport.

The most practical option is to apply at the nearest Myanmar embassy. It takes up to a week but normally can be process in three working days. However, it does not guarantee you can roam freely around the country. Foreign visitors are allowed to go only to certain areas.

Ms Phyu Phyu Mar said the government would gradually add more destinations to the list and by 2015 most of the country should be open.

“Recently the government opened up new destinations such as the northern ChinState, Loikaw in KayaState and Kalewa in Sagang Division.”

To tackle the rapid growth of tourism since late 2011 facilities and human resources need to catch up.

Hanns Seidel Foundation in cooperation with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the Myanmar Tourism Board has drafted a Myanmar Responsible Tourism Plan that will span five years to 2017.

The draft was present at the World Economic Forum on East Asia held in Nay Pyi Taw, 5 to 7 June.

According to official records, there are now 77 hotels in the pipeline (10 in Yangon, around 700 rooms). The huge 800-room Shangri-la Residence including two hotels as well as office and shop space will open later this year. Shangri-la, Hilton, Accor and Best Western international hotel chains are entering Myanmar. Currently there are 742 hotels countrywide.

This year, Myanmar expects 1.5 million visits up from around 1.06 million at the end of 2012. It projects visits will top 2.2 million in 2020.

shwedagon pagoda

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