Myanmar’s outbound travel grows

August 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Myanmar, News

YANGON, 7 August 2013: Ministry of Hotels and Tourism  officials say Myanmar tourists are making more trips to neighbouring countries and Asia, than ever before.

According to local news report, the ministry’s director general, Aung Zaw Win, said the number of Myanmar nationals travelling overseas has now reached over 380,000 a year.

“In 2011, around 900 travelled abroad daily. And in 2012, the daily number reached about 1,000. Now, it averages around 380,000 annually.”

The number has increased dramatically since 2000 and most of them travelled to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan.

They were mainly travelling for leisure, shopping, health, medical check-ups, education and work.

To put it in perspective, Thais make 3 million trips overseas a year, but the boom in outbound travel mainly to China and Japan occurred only recently as salaries increased and visa  restrictions eased.

Tight visa restrictions in most countries imposed on Myanmar’s citizens and the lack of direct air links to all ASEAN countries, including Brunei, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines are the two biggest obstacles to growth for Myanmar’s outbound travel market.

Visas policies are often based on bilateral relations. As long as Myanmar does not allow visa-free travel for ASEAN nationals, the same treatment is dished out to Myanmar’s citizens.

Officials in the Ministry of Tourism avoid questions on when the country will adopt the ASEAN charter principle that states all member countries should provide visa-free entry to ASEAN member country citizens.

They correctly point out that it is outside the tourism ministry’s jurisdiction to make comments on visas, which comes under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, behind the scenes ministry officials are lobbying to introduce visa-free travel despite objections from security agencies and immigration.

Introduction of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 could be the catalyst for a dramatic easing of visa restrictions to comply with free-trade era principles.

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