Myanmar’s once-thriving tourism industry has weathered a series of storms, from the political coup to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, there is a glimmer of hope as domestic tourism experiences a resurgence.To visit Myanmar, you will need a Myanmar visa.
This article delves into the current landscape of Myanmar’s tourism industry, spotlighting the robust domestic travel trends while highlighting the conspicuous absence of foreign tourists.
Domestic Travel Hotspots
Myanmar boasts a tapestry of domestic travel destinations, including:
1. Bagan: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Overview: Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to Myanmar’s rich historical and cultural heritage.
Located in central Myanmar, this ancient city is synonymous with its thousands of temples and pagodas, which date back to the 9th to 13th centuries. Bagan is often described as an open-air museum, drawing history enthusiasts, architecture admirers, and spiritual seekers alike.
Temples and Pagodas: Bagan is home to over 2,000 well-preserved temples and pagodas, including famous ones like Ananda Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda, and Dhammayangyi Temple.
Sunset and Sunrise Views: Visitors flock to Bagan to witness breathtaking sunsets and sunrises over the temple-studded plains, a truly magical experience.
Cultural Experiences: Travelers can engage with local communities, participate in traditional ceremonies, and explore the local culture, making it a holistic cultural immersion.
2. Ngapali: A Coastal Paradise
Overview: Ngapali, nestled along the pristine shores of the Bay of Bengal in the Rakhine State, is Myanmar’s premier beach destination.
This coastal paradise is celebrated for its unspoiled beaches, crystal-clear waters, and tranquil ambiance, providing a perfect retreat for those seeking relaxation and natural beauty.
Beachfront Bliss: Ngapali boasts miles of soft, white sandy beaches where visitors can unwind, swim, or simply soak up the sun.
Water Activities: Adventure-seekers can indulge in various water sports, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking, exploring the vibrant marine life and coral reefs.
Local Fishing Villages: Exploring the nearby fishing villages provides insight into the traditional coastal lifestyle, offering opportunities for cultural interaction.
3. Ngwe Saung: Sandy Shores and Watersports
Overview: Ngwe Saung, another coastal gem, is located in the Ayeyarwady Region. It is renowned for its pristine, palm-fringed beaches and a wide array of water-based activities, making it a favored destination for travelers seeking adventure and relaxation.
Beach Activities: The long sandy shores invite visitors to take leisurely strolls, build sandcastles, or enjoy picnics by the sea.
Watersports: Ngwe Saung is a watersports hub, offering opportunities for jet-skiing, windsurfing, and sailing, satisfying the adrenaline cravings of adventure enthusiasts.
Sunset Views: The sunsets at Ngwe Saung are equally captivating, with the horizon painted in stunning hues of orange and pink.
4. Chaungtha: Serenity by the Sea
Overview: Chaungtha, situated in the Ayeyarwady Region, is a tranquil beachfront destination known for its natural beauty and peaceful ambiance. It’s the perfect getaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Secluded Beaches: Chaungtha offers quieter and less crowded beaches, ideal for those who prefer serenity and solitude.
Boat Trips: Visitors can take boat trips to explore nearby islands and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Andaman Sea.
Fresh Seafood: The beach town is renowned for its fresh seafood, and visitors can savor delectable dishes prepared with locally caught fish and shellfish.
These destinations collectively showcase the diverse range of experiences that Myanmar has to offer, from cultural immersion in Bagan to the coastal paradises of Ngapali, Ngwe Saung, and Chaungtha. Each destination appeals to different traveler preferences, promising unforgettable experiences and lasting memories.
Robust Domestic Demand
The surge in domestic travel is evident, with hotels in sought-after locales like Chaungtha and Ngwe Saung in Ayeyarwady Region reporting full occupancy during the Thingyan holiday, indicative of strong domestic demand.
Bagan, with its historical allure, also witnesses a surge in bookings, though rates fluctuate depending on electricity availability in different areas.
Ancient capitals like Ava and tourist attractions like Mingun beckon families and local travelers, contributing to the revival of domestic tourism.
The Void Left by Foreign Tourists
Since the military coup in 2021, foreign tourist arrivals have nosedived, exacerbated by travel advisories issued by several countries, including the United States, warning against visits to Myanmar.
The United Kingdom’s foreign ministry, for instance, advises against travel to specific regions due to the risk of violent incidents such as shootings and bombings.
In previously popular tourist destinations like Sagaing, Magwe, and various states, ongoing conflicts between military regime forces and resistance groups have escalated, dissuading foreign tourists.
Notably, major cities like Yangon and Mandalay have witnessed sporadic bomb blasts, further dampening the prospects for foreign visitors.
The Unpredictable Security Climate
Myanmar’s security landscape remains unpredictable and prone to abrupt changes. Attacks primarily target military installations, government buildings, checkpoints, and businesses linked to the junta.
Domestic Response to Political Upheaval
Following the coup, a significant portion of Myanmar’s population opted to boycott Thingyan celebrations in a symbolic protest against military rule.
Concurrently, anti-junta revolutionary forces called for a ‘Revolutionary Thingyan,’ while the junta set up pavilions to mark the festival, marking a complex and divisive period for the country.
In summation, Myanmar’s domestic tourism industry is displaying encouraging signs of rejuvenation, driven by the enthusiasm of local travelers during holidays.
However, the absence of foreign tourists and persistent security concerns pose substantial challenges to the industry’s full-scale recovery. Myanmar’s tourism landscape remains in flux, with domestic tourists spearheading the revival while international tourism remains uncertain.