YANGON – Myanmar received nearly 25 per cent fewer tourists through its main airport in 2008, official figures showed Tuesday, in a year when a deadly cyclone laid waste to vast swathes of the military-run nation.
A total of 177,018 visitors arrived at Yangon international airport, down from 231,587 in 2007, figures from the government’s hotel and tourism department revealed.
The best month for tourism was March with 21,100 arrivals and the worst was May with 9,258 visitors.
Cyclone Nargis swept the south of Myanmar May 2-3 last year, leaving 138,000 people dead or missing and destroying homes and farmland, particularly in the southwest delta region.
The main tourist season in Myanmar runs from October to April, but the total number of flights for the year was also down to 3,772 from 4,263 in 2007.
No figures were available for the number of tourists arriving by land, but on average about half of visitors enter by land border checkpoints.
Most visitors were from Asia – 115,735 in total, including 26,903 Thais and 18,883 Chinese.
Other tourists came from the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Pacific countries.
‘The figures were down because of the Nargis cyclone in May. The figures might also be down in coming months because of the Bangkok crisis and India attack,’ tour operator Khin Khin told AFP, adding the global recession was also to blame.
Militant attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in late November and political turmoil in Thailand that closed Bangkok’s international airport for eight days damaged regional tourism.
Although Myanmar has many beautiful places to attract tourists, it has been shunned by many visitors to the region because of the ruling junta.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and is under US and EU-wide sanctions because of its human right record and the ongoing detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.