Saturday 17 March 2018
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Fears for Myanmar tourism as flood crisis lingers

As Myanmar battles severe flooding across the country, tour operators are worried tourist visitor numbers this year will be badly affected.

A boy moves his boat in a flooded village outside Zalun Township, Irrawaddy Delta.

YANGON: Recent flooding in Myanmar has destroyed great swathes of farmland and images of damage and despair, seen all over the world, may affect tourist arrival numbers, according to tourism officials.

But they said the flooding has not affected key tourist spots and are hoping for a boost with the upcoming elections.

“I think it’s plausible that people may take more caution when they think about their travel for Myanmar,” said Nay Aung, the founder and CEO of Oway, a local travel agency.

“Twelve out of 14 states have been impacted by the flood situation. So it’s a pretty big, considerable amount of area in Myanmar,” he said.

To counter the negative effect of the flood images, the Myanmar Tourism Federation is sending its members out in to the flood-hit areas to gather reliable, first-hand information.

“Some media write the right information, some media the wrong information or maybe some media don’t update. They only have old information and that will appear again and again. This will give to the people a bad image about Myanmar,” said its Vice Chairman Maung Maung Swe.

This year, Myanmar hopes to attract five million visitors and while the floods may negatively impact tourist arrivals, officials hoped that the numbers may be boosted towards year-end as some of the country’s five million overseas nationals return for the November general election.

“People, if they’re already interested in Myanmar, when they have to travel to Myanmar they will choose this coming election period because first they can witness and be part of this election and also November is the best weather in Myanmar for tourists to come,” Maung Maung Swe said.

So far the floods have not affected key tourist spots like the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, and other cultural heritage sites such as Bagan and Inle Lake.

In fact, the tourism ministry issued a statement assuring visitors that Myanmar is safe for travelers and urging visitors to continue to come to the country.

Currently, for Myanmar travel is in a traditionally non-peak season, and industry players said it may not be until October that they can truly gauge whether tourists have decided to stay away.

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