Visa offer extended to woo Euro travelers back to Myanmar

Yangon International Airport via WikiCommons
Yangon International Airport via WikiCommons

Tourism officials are moving to attract more European tourists by extending a visa-on-arrival scheme to six new countries, according to media reports.

Starting Oct. 1, travelers from Germany, Italy, Australia, Russia, Switzerland, Italy and Spain can spontaneously come to the Golden Land, provided they can shell out for airfare and the 76,000 kyats (US$50) visa fee, according to Voice of America Burmese.

The on-arrival visas allow visits up to 30 days, similar to tourist visas now available online. They’re currently offered to citizens of 20 nations including Japan, South Korea, Macao, Hong Kong, China and all ASEAN members except Malaysia.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy, U Aung Aye Han of Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels & Tourism acknowledged the international backlash over the Rohingya issue has impacted tourism arrivals this scheme is one of many to attract more visitors.

“The number of Western travelers has declined due to the Rakhine issue,” he told the online outlet.

Last year, 3.55 million tourists visited Myanmar, an increase over the 3.44 million in 2017 and 2016’s record low of 2.9 million. It’s still well under the record-high 4.66 million visitors in 2015, before the crisis drew global outrage.

On the upside, the number of Chinese arrivals Myanmar has increased dramatically over the past four years, doubling in 2018 over the average of previous years.

The central question faced by some travelers considering Myanmar is whether it is ethical to visit a country accused of committing ethnic cleansing and genocide. While it is easy to outright boycott a destination, some travel operators argue for an “ongoing commitment” for the sake of engagement and bringing tourism dollars to local communities.

Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, told the Telegraph UK in 2017 that they are “keen to promote the welfare of the common people.”

“Our view, for now, is that if we can continue to benefit local communities and help keep Burma visible to the international community through tourism, then we’ll continue to sell [holidays there],” he said.

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