Saturday, July 22, 2017

Big tourism increase forecast for Bagan

Despite the doubling of the entry fee to the Bagan tourist zone over the past two years, and discouraging news of floods and explosions, officials expect visitor numbers to continue to grow “dramatically” in the near future.

Tourists gape in awe at the wonders of Bagan in August. Photo: Si Thu Lwin / The Myanmar TimesTourists gape in awe at the wonders of Bagan in August. Photo: Si Thu Lwin / The Myanmar Times

U Nyein Lwin, deputy director of the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, told The Myanmar Times that the hoped-for designation of the city as a UNESCO Heritage Site could spur further international interest.

He expressed confidence that the site would continue to attract increasing numbers over the next three years, despite rivalry from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, and bad news such as the recent flooding and the bomb blast in Bangkok.

“The whole world will come to know of Bagan,” he said.

So far this year, visitor figures are no higher than last year’s for the same period, however.

Hotelier U Khin Maung Myint said the tourism industry had been “disrupted” by a range of “incidents” this year.

“Tourists stopped coming but now they are coming again. Hotels and guest houses are already fully booked for December,” he said.

The expected influx will come despite the US$20 entry fee to the zone, which is collected by ward administration offices, bus terminals, hotels and guest houses.

“Some foreigners don’t want to pay, so we cooperate with bus terminals and hotels to collect the money. We don’t charge foreign embassy staff or guests of the state,” said U Nyein Lwin.

In June 2013 the entrance fee was $10, yielding an income of $1.2 million from the 120,000 foreign tourists who came. The next year the numbers rose to more than 180,000.

The number rose the following year to 190,000 even as the fee rose to $15, yielding more than $2.8 million.

As of last January the fee has been set at $20, bringing in more than $4.1 million last year from more than 240,000 tourists. So far this financial year, more than 55,000 tourists have come, spending more than $1.1 million on entry fees, says the archaeology department.

 Translation by Kyawt Darly Lin