HALONG BAY, 24 January 2019: Myanmar welcomed 3.55 million tourists in 2018, up 3.1%, according to officials attending the ASEAN Tourism Forum, hosted last week in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
The figures were presented along with updates for all of the 10-member countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the closing day of the weeklong meetings.
Comparisons with the other nine member countries showed Myanmar has a considerable distance to go to overhaul its closest rival Laos, which closed the year with 4.18 million visits.
On the arrivals chart for the 10 countries, Myanmar was 9th ahead of Brunei that attracted just 200,000 visits.
But tourism officials pointed out that Myanmar’s performance was an improvement on 2017 when it tallied 3.44 million visits.
Myanmar suffered declines since 2015 when it broke all previous records with 4.6 million visits and officials optimistically talked of reaching 10 million by 2022.
Travel arrivals took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2016 when the total slipped to 2.91 million, mainly due to the adoption of a stricter definition for an international tourist that altered the count and also the Rohingya human rights crisis. 2017 improved with arrivals reaching 3.44 million. Figures presented at the ATF were compiled by Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.
In 2017 China topped Myanmar’s tourist arrivals chart with 297,400, up 39.36%, followed by Thailand 291,231 up 6.33%, Japan 104,376, the US 65,057, South Korea 63,911, Singapore 58,657, Vietnam 53,329, Malaysia 47,632, India 43,281, France 43,218 and the UK 36,609.
Data showed the top destinations remained Yangon and Mandala, followed by destination in Shan state such as Inle Lake.
During the closing press conference at ATF, last week, officials released tourism performance data that predictably showed Thailand leads the pack with 38.15 million, up 7.2%.
In second place Malaysia, attracted 23.47 million, down 0.1% followed by Singapore 16.90m, up 6.6%, Vietnam 15.49m, up 19.9%, Indonesia 14.39m, up 11.6% the Philippines, 6.43m, up 7.3%, Cambodia 6.20m, up 11%, Laos 4.18m, up 8.2%, Myanmar 3.55m and Brunei 200,000, up 4.5%.