Myanmar tourism exceeds forecast

YANGON, 8 December 2015: Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism predicts the country tourism is heading for yet another record year, surpassing its own forecasts that suggested the year would close with 4.5 million visits.

Global New Light of Myanmar quoted tourism minister, U Htay Aung, saying Myanmar was  now on track to surpass its earlier target after  provisional data confirmed the country attracted 4.2 million trips by the end of November.

It will take a few more weeks before the statistics department can confirm, the minister’s estimate, but based on average monthly performances in tourism, it is now almost certain the year will close with around 4.5 million tourists.

“With the impressive growth that has boosted the industry, the number of travellers entering Myanmar could be as high as 4.5 million exceeding our forecasts,” he told the official government media.

According to the ministry’s statistics, the latest calculation of international entrants to Myanmar surpassed 2014’s total of 3.08 million arrivals for the first 11 months of the year.

Myanmar is destined to become one of the top tourism destinations for long-haul travellers over next 10 years, a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), claims.

The WTTC forecasted that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the country’s gross domestic production was expected to grow to 2.7% of GDP by 2025, saying that it constituted 2.2% of the GDP last year, up from 1.6% in 2013.

Travel and tourism’s contribution to employment will account for 1,057,000 jobs directly by 2025, an increase of 7% over the next 10 years, according to WTTC.

Myanmar received 3.08 million visitors last year, up from 2.04 million in 2013, which doubled the 1 million visitors who came in 2012. The country’s tourism industry generated USD1.14 billion in 2014, up from USD926 million in 2013 and USD534 million in 2012.

According to the ministry’s data as of 31 October, the total number of hotel rooms grew from 47,911 in August to 48,737 in October. Likewise, the total number of licensed hotels increased from 1,225 to 1,241 during the two-month period, the report added.

However, not everyone in the tourism industry is overjoyed with the ministry’s head counts. There are voices in the industry that claim the ministry is counting day visitors, which would cast doubt on the accuracy of the figures supplied on so-called genuine tourists.

The minister built his career guiding the country’s tourism for decades and he is widely considered an unrivalled expert on tourism matters, legislation and research.

He would be very familiar with the UNWTO definition of what constitutes a genuine tourist and would not endorse shortcuts that included day visits to inflate the country’s tourism reports.

Technically, the ministry, as a member of UNWTO, recognises the definition that identifies a tourist as a person who visits a country for at least 24-hours.

Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee earlier urged the government to introduce a data collection system to ensure that figures are accurate and could be used to assist the industry to focus its marketing efforts.

At the time, it was stated the Ministry was counting day trips, an accusation that has not been followed up with an explanation, or denial, from the Minister of Tourism.

Myanmar has identified an objective to promote ecotourism and establish policies to ensure there is sustainable tourism growth that ensures local communities benefit from tourism rather than just a small group of wealthy corporate investors.

However, tourism prospers on untethered commercialism and that is reflected in the enormous growth in hotel infrastructure, airports and airline fleets, at the expense of investments in essential services such as public health, hospitals and basic utilities to raise the standard of living and health in rural communities.

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