Myanmar abolishes arrival, departure cards to encourage foreign tourism

An announcement of the cancellation of arrival and departure cards from the immigration department at the Yangon International Airport.

Starting today, foreign tourists will no longer have to fill out arrival or departure cards at Myanmar’s three international airports. Immigration officials believe this will encourage more foreign tourists to visit Myanmar.

“In order to cause an increase in foreign tourists and to strengthen the tourism industry, from 12-9-2018, we permit foreigners and local travelers to enter and leave the country without arrival and departure cards,” reads a directive signed by the deputy immigration director at Yangon International Airport.

The letter is specifically addressed to Thai Airways and Thai Smile, but it refers to foreign tourists in general. The airlines have been instructed to stop distributing the cards.

The letter goes on to explain that instead of collecting filled-out cards, immigration authorities will “compare passenger lists from airlines to actual arrivals”.

It’s unclear whether or how abolishing arrival and departure cards will encourage foreign tourism, but it does follow a trend of countries abolishing the cards to save travelers time. Last month, when New Zealand abolished departure cards, the country’s immigration minister said the move would save travelers thousands of wasted hours each year and provide a “more seamless experience” while leaving the country. New Zealand still requires travelers to fill out arrival cards.

Today’s announcement by Myanmar follows a series of other moves meant to encourage foreign tourism, particularly from East Asia, as Western tourism drops in response to the genocide of the Rohingya. In July, Myanmar began granting visa-free access to Japanese and South Korean tourists and visa-on-arrival access to Chinese tourists, including those from Hong Kong and Macau.

In August, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism suspended a requirement for Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean visitors to have at least US$1,000 in cash before entering the country after the rule met heavy public criticism.

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