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Updated on June 11, 2018 From Myanmar Times

Six issues on table at tourism conference

Domestic tour operators will push the government to address six critical issues that they said have hindered the development of the travel industry, at a tourism conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.
        The government will host the first Myanmar Tourism Conference on Tuesday and expects more than 300 people, including Vice President U Henry Van Thio and other officials, to attend.
        Among the critical issues that the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) will submit to the conference are double taxation, and the lack of vocational training and education for tourism.
        Other problems which the government has to address are the absence of systematic capacity building and the inability to manage existing and potential tourist destinations.
        U Naung Naung Han, general secretary of the UMTA, told The Myanmar Times that he hopes government pays attention to the issues for the badly needed development of the tourism sector.
        “We will submit the most important things that need to be solved,” he said.
        Although tourism should be considered a priority sector of the government, which if managed well, contributes a lot to the country’s economy, the government has not committed to the development of the industry, he said.
        Myanmar has a Ministry for Hotels and Tourism, but tour operators often complain of unnecessary delays caused by the government. An example was the slow action by the Immigration Department on a request by the ministry for visa exemptions to attract more tourists.
        “Cooperation is still low between the ministry and other agencies,” U Naung Naung Han said.
        In addition, the ministry alone cannot initiate the sector’s development, tour operators point out.
        U Naung Naung Han said the sector lacks a roadmap for development that would set a clear direction for the industry and the businesses that rely on it. It is time for the government to focus on the sector, he said.
        Higher aircraft fuel costs than in neighbouring countries has pushed transportation costs higher for travel to Myanmar, putting the country in a less competitive position compared to its neighbours, he said.
        “How can we compete if our package prices are much higher than theirs,” U Naung Naung Han questioned.
        U Thet Lwin Toh, chairperson of the UMTA, said increasing inter-agency cooperation would be an easy thing for the government to do to lessen the burdens on the industry.
        “We need the support of the government to resolve the problems of small- to medium-enterprise operators,” he said.
        Of the 1.22 million tourist arrivals that were recorded as of April, only 490,000 visitors came with visas through international airports. Most tourists, around 730,000, came through border checkpoints.
        Figures from the ministry show that visitors from Eastern Europe declined by eight percent, while the number of Western European tourists dropped by 26pc this year.
        However, the decline in European tourists was offset by a rise of 31pc in tourists from China and 20pc in those from Thailand. The ministry also noted an increase of tourists coming from other Southeast Asian countries.
        The decline in Western travellers was largely due to the humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine, which blotted Myanmar’s image in the West.
        The crisis in northern Rakhine erupted last year when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters attacked government outpots.

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