AS MYANMAR opens up under its democratically elected civilian government, the nation recently initiated its efforts to promote outbound tourism, according to the Union of Myanmar Travel Association.
Hla Aye, vice chairman of the UMTA and managing director of Shan Yoma Travel & Tours Co, said on Tuesday that about 3 million Myanmar citizens went abroad for leisure and business on a yearly basis, while domestic tourism was enjoyed by more than 6 million people.
“Myanmar people like travelling. If they have some extra money in hand, they usually start thinking of foreign trips. So outbound tourism has a lot of room for improvement in Myanmar,” he said.
Hla Aye said Myanmar people mostly visited Asean countries for which they do not need to apply for visas. Malaysia now is the only Asean country for which Myanmar visitors need a visa.
Among the most visited nations, Thailand stands first, followed by Singapore and Vietnam.
Hla Aye has also witnessed a surge in travel to East Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and China, as well as to Europe. He believes direct flights will help improve travel between these countries to a large extent. There will soon be some direct flights between Myanmar and the Philippines and Indonesia, he said.
“Many people here want to go abroad every year. Normally, they want to visit different countries to which they have never been. For example, if someone already visited Thailand last year, he may think of visiting Singapore and Vietnam for next trips.
Then, he may be willing to visit Japan, Korea, etc.
“If he already visited all those countries, he may think of visiting Europe and the United States. The choice of countries may also depend on his income,” he said.
Lin Htein, a member of the UMTA executive committee and leader of its outbound task force, said Myanmar would prioritise holding international travel marts to promote outbound tourism.
As part of the strategy, the third Myanmar International Travel Mart will be held in Yangon on February 11 and 12.
More than 70 licensed tour companies, airlines, hotels, international hospitals, banks, telecom companies and logistics firms will showcase their products at the event.
Lin Htein said around 10,000 visitors were expected, and a number of tour packages are expected to be sold at the two-day event. He said the previous two events – one in Yangon and another in Mandalay – were very successful, as around 3,000-4,000 visited each exhibition day. But he did not reveal the target sales for this year’s event.
“All the exhibitors felt satisfied with their outcomes. Mostly, their expectation was to promote branding and cooperation with the tourism ministry, the Myanmar Tourism Federation, and UMTA.
“In both of our previous events, many exhibitors managed to sell outbound tour packages, mostly to Asean countries. Some exhibitors were able to sell Europe packages and package tours to Bodh Gaya [in India]. So they are very satisfied and became repeat exhibitors,” he said.
Lin Htein said the association tried to offer the lowest rate for booths at the upcoming event so that more tour companies could be present there. The rate of a booth ranges from US$350 to $500 (Bt12,300-Bt17,500), depending on size and location.
He said the fourth outbound travel mart would be held in September.
Travel marts are just part of the association’s efforts to promote outbound tourism. Lin Htein said the UMTA outbound task force now had more than 300 member companies. Short-term courses for outbound tour leaders would soon be conducted by the UMTA.