Destination news: Tourist arrivals to Myanmar up 37%
Yangon - Tourist arrivals to Myanmar increased 37.4 per cent year-on-year in the first seven months of 2010, thanks in part to a new visa-on-arrival system, media reports said Sunday.
Despite the higher arrival figures, Myanmar tourism industry sources have expressed worries that a general election on November 7 could adversely affect the last quarter of this year.
According to Ministry of Hotels and Tourism figures, in the January-July period some 161,322 visitors entered the country, the Myanmar Times reported.
Thailand was the biggest source of visitors to Myanmar with 31,795 tourists in the period, followed by China's 19,580 visitors, South Korea with 10,206, France with 7,380, Germany with 5,678 and Italy with 3,925.
Travel industry sources said the introduction of a new visa-on-arrival scheme on May 1 had helped draw individual tourists to the country, whose military-run regime is considered a pariah among western democracies.
Foreign Individual Travellers, as they are termed, accounted for 89,645 of all arrivals, up 53.4 per cent.
The visa-on-arrival scheme will be stopped on September 1, as the ruling junta tightens security in preparation for a general election on November 7, the country's first in 20 years, industry sources said.
The cancellation of the easy visa system is expected to add to jitters about the polling period, sources said.
'In June and July, we received cancellations from Germany for October and November because of concerns over the election, even though the election date was not known at that time,' a spokesperson for a leading tour company in Yangon told the Myanmar Times.
Not everyone is pessimistic, though.
'We've got a number of bookings for October and occupancy is extremely good for the coming peak season,' said May Myat Mon Win, director of sales and marketing of Chatrium Hotel in Yangon .
'Compared to last year, we're receiving more business and corporate travellers. We expect our occupancy will be up by 20 per cent compared to last year,' she said.