Business, FIT arrivals grow 60pc in first seven months

By Zaw Win Than
Volume 33, No. 642
September 3 - 9, 2012

MYANMAR welcomed almost 300,000 foreign visitors in the first seven months of the year, up 37.5 percent on the same period in 2011, figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism show.

Arrivals of free independent travellers (FITs)– tourists not on package tours – and business travellers both rose more than 60pc, while the number of package tourists was up a more modest 15pc, the figures show.

From January to the end of July 299,529 foreign visitors passed Yangon International Airport and border crossings, up from 217,837 during the first seven months of last year.

Of the total, 280,913 visitors arrived at Yangon airport, with 18,616 entering at border crossings, according to the figures.

More than 60pc of visitors were from Asian countries, including about 48,014 from Thailand – the largest single group by nationality – followed by Japan with 23,242, China with 22,283 and South Korea with 17,799.

European nationals accounted for 65,300 visitors, representing 23.3pc of total arrivals. France led the way with 15,094, followed by the United Kingdom (11,124) and Germany (10,077).

The figures also showed that FITs made up the single largest group with 118,493 visitors, followed by package tourists (61,661), business travellers (60,979) and social visa holders (20,323).

The FIT figure was up more than 60.5pc on the 73,807 at the same time last year, while business travellers were also up 60pc, from 38,108. Package tourists increased 15.31pc from 53,471, while social visitors rose only 3.4pc on the 19,655 recorded in the first seven months of the year.

The strong growth is expected to continue into late 2012 and early 2013, with industry sources tipping growth of about 30pc during the coming peak season, which runs from October through to April.

But there are major questions over whether the industry has the capacity to meet the needs of the more than half a million foreign visitors expected to enter Myanmar in 2012.

U Phyoe Wai Yarzar, managing director of All Asia Exclusive Travel and chairman of the Myanmar Marketing Committee (MMC), said planned increases in capacity on both international and domestic air routes would support growth, but further investment in infrastructure was needed.

While optimistic about the outlook for coming season, Dr Aung Myat Kyaw, managing director of Orchestra Travel, said the industry was already near capacity and there were growing concerns over the lack of hotels, high room rates and other prices, low transport capacity, poor infrastructure and inefficient booking systems.

“The tourism industry will need to see more investment to cope with future increases in tourist numbers,” said Dr Aung Myat Kyaw, who is also an adviser to MMC.