Myanmar sees record number of tourists

Featured - January 16th, 2013

The surge of tourists into Myanmar peaked over the past year as sweeping economic and political reforms opened up the long-isolated country, paving the way for foreign investors to tap its untouched resources.

Closed off for decades by a military junta regime, tourists flocked to the country in the hope of visiting before globalization settles in. Over the past year, the wave of tourists grew 30% to 1,060,000 in 2012 from around 800,000 the previous year, the tourism ministry said, forecasting a 15% increase in 2013.

The 320-foot tall (97 meters) Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon has attracted around 350,000 foreigners, up from around 80,000 in 2008, state media reported.

Most of the tourists coming in by plane were Thais, with 94,000, followed by around 70,000 Chinese. Around 37,000 tourists came from the United States, 30,000 from France and 24,000 from Britain, according to ministry figures.

“This is a very outstanding year for the industry. We have never experienced it before,” Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, of the Myanmar Tourism Board, told AFP.

He also dismissed concerns that the industry will be unable to cope with the increasing number of tourists amid rising hotel prices and lack of available accommodations.

Dramatic reforms made by the government has also lured in foreign investors, such as Coca-Cola and General Electric, to access Myanmar’s untapped resources.