Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Domestic tourism growing faster than foreign visits

Domestic tourism is on the rise. Myanmar recorded some 7.1 million domestic travellers from August 2016 to April 2017, according to U Myoe Gyi, vice chairman of the Domestic Pilgrimages and Tour Operators Association.

Pilgrims make offerings to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay. The Myanmar TimesPilgrims make offerings to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay. The Myanmar Times

Speaking to The Myanmar Times, he said statistics from his association showed that the figure represents a jump of about 1 million from the previous years.

He said that the domestic tour season is a little different from the inbound peak season in Myanmar that lasts from August to April.

U Myoe Gyi said the local tourism has developed since Myanmar’s political transition period in 2011-12 – which witnessed a healthy jump from 3.1 million travellers to 7.1 million in 2016-17.

This arrival number is close to the expected arrivals of the international tourist target of 7.5 million visitors in 2020 as a result of the tourism master plan of the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.

International arrivals accounted for only 2.9 million visitors at the end of 2016.

“During this year’s water festival, more than 1000 pilgrim vehicles went to the Tanintharyi region. In terms of changing people’s mindset, the domestic travellers prefer to stay at hotels instead of monasteries and guest houses,” U Myoe Gyi said.

In the past Myanmar travellers used to stay at monasteries. Pilgrimage operators made an itinerary based on monastery stays, and the package price was very low compared with hotels.

U Htike Lun Maung, managing director of New Motion Travel and Tours, said, “There were many pilgrimage operators in those days who cooked the meals and made arrangements for overnight stays at monasteries on the itinerary.

“Their numbers are more than those who arranged for hotel stays even now,” he said.

Domestic tourism is a small and medium business, and it is easy to earn an income.

This is why, he said, many people are interested in this business and now there are more than 650 domestic pilgrimage operators in the country.

There are 615 pilgrimage operators in the Yangon region alone, of which 315 operators are members of the Domestic Pilgrimage and Tour Operators Association.

U Myoe Gyi said, “The number of pilgrims who go on tours has not declined even as domestic operators are increasing, and the number of people who go with private arrangements is also growing.”

Because the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism lacks the data, the Domestic Pilgrimage and Tour Operators Association calculated the number of domestic travellers yearly by collecting the figures from checkpoints in cities where people visit the most.

“It would be a 20 percent difference, at most from the actual numbers, and our figures will not be too far wrong,” he said.