Tourism in Myanmar

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Balloon rides are a popular way for tourists to see pagodas and other areas of scenic beauty in Burma/Myanmar.

Tourism in Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a slowly developing sector. Although Burma possesses great tourist potential and attractions in many fields, much of the industry remains to be developed. Also, the number of visitors to Burma is small compared to her neighbours - even outpaced by Laos. This is primarily due to its current political situation. However, after the junta transferred power to the civilian government, the tourism sector saw an increase in tourism arrivals and in 2012, tourist arrivals surpassed the one million mark for the first time. In 2013, the Tourism Master Plan was created, targeting 7.5 million arrivals by 2020.[1]

Tourism in Burma has been developed mainly by the government, but many private enterprises do exist, catering to a wide range of tourists.

Since 1992, the government has encouraged tourism in the country.

  • In 2010, 791,505 foreign tourists visited Myanmar, with 295,174 foreign tourists entering the country via Yangon International Airport.[2]
  • In 2012, more than 1 million foreign tourists visited Myanmar and that figure is expected to rise to around 1.5 million in 2013.
  • In 2013, the number of foreign arrivals reached more than 2.04 million, counting both air and overland arrivals.[1]

Tourism has been promoted by advocacy groups as a method of providing economic benefit to Burmese civilians, and to avoid isolating the country from the rest of the world. Voices for Burma, a pro-democracy advocate group, states, "We believe that small-scale, responsible tourism can create more benefits than harm. So long as tourists are fully aware of the situation and take steps to maximise their positive impact and minimise the negatives, we feel their visit can be beneficial overall. Responsible tourists can help Burma primarily by bringing money to local communities and small businesses, and by raising awareness of the situation worldwide."[3]

Regardless, a majority of advocacy groups discourage tourism. The junta's forced labour programmes were focused around tourist destinations which have been heavily criticised for their human rights records. A former Burmese tourism minister estimated that 12% of the government revenues are derived from tourism, with the tourism industry contributing $182 million USD (2007) to the government's annual budget.[4]


In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, tourists comprised 73.84% (313,127 arrivals) of overseas visitors, primarily entering the country by air, representing 69.26% of arrivals, followed by land and sea, which represented 29.97% and 0.77% of arrivals respectively.[5] An additional 110,914 visitors arrived through other visa types AND represented an additional 26.16% of the total.[5] In 2012, revenues from tourism jumped to over $534 million in 2012, up from $315 million in 2011. [6]

General trends

Tourist arrivals to Yangon Entry Point, Mandalay & Bagan Gateways, Nay Pyi Taw Gateway and Border Tourism.

Year Tourist arrivals % Change
2017 3,443,133 18.00%[7]
2016 2,907,207 -37.89%[8]
2015 4,681,020 +51.91%
2014 3,081,412 +50.73%
2013 2,044,307 +93.04%
2012 1,058,995 +29.72%
2011 816,369 +3.14%
2010 791,505 +3.79%
2009 762,547 +4.28%
2008 731,230 +2.06%

Tourists by nationality

The governmental statistics body, the Central Statistical Organization, reported more than 3,000,000 travellers flocked to Myanmar in 2014, compared with approximately 816,000 visitors in 2011. Among these, 1,022,081 tourist arrivals (excluding visitors under special entry visas such as social or business visas) were via Yangon International Airport.[9][10]

Most visitors arriving to Myanmar on short term basis were from the following countries of nationality:[11]

Rank Country 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
1  Thailand 273,889 243,443 204,539 198,229 139,770 94,342 61,696
2  China 212,642 183,886 147,977 125,609 90,550 70,805 62,018
3  Japan 101,484 100,084 90,312 83,434 68,671 47,690 21,321
4  United States 73,085 76,502 69,015 62,631 53,653 37,589 21,680
5  South Korea 65,929 64,397 63,715 58,472 54,934 34,805 22,524
6  Singapore 61,859 50,198 45,125 47,692 39,140 26,296 15,391
7  Vietnam 58,919 48,869 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
8  France 58,369 52,304 47,235 41,453 35,462 30,064 19,414
9  United Kingdom 47,717 51,051 45,120 40,921 33,203 24,296 11,056
10  Malaysia 47,010 43,931 40,852 46,534 39,758 30,499 23,287
11  India 41,623 38,537 34,638 32,306 21,042 16,868 12,318
12  Germany 39,952 39,044 35,727 32,265 27,712 23,063 14,006
13  Taiwan 36,499 36,118 31,735 32,664 30,699 22,060 15,542
14  Australia 32,628 34,010 30,820 29,175 11,728 18,261 10,415
15  Italy 18,242 17,969 14,821 12,613 11,728 10,830 9,710
16  Philippines 18,143 16,421 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
17  Canada 14,068 15,024 14,051 12,268 8,975 6,485 3,685
18  Netherlands 13,950 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
19   Switzerland 13,558 13,694 13,897 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
20  Spain 13,558 12,765 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
21  Belgium 7,628 7,783 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
22  Russia 5,534 5,487 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
23  New Zealand 4,808 5,026 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
24  Austria 4,690 4,857 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Tourist attractions

The most popular available tourist destinations in Burma include big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay; religious sites in Mon State, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An; nature trails in Inle Lake, Kengtung, Putao, Pyin Oo Lwin; ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; as well as beaches in Nabule Ngapali, Maungmagan Ngwe-Saung, Mergui.[12]

Kachin State



Mon State

Rakhine State

Shan State

Other beaches


UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Myanmar

Site Image Location Criteria Area
ha (acre)
Year Description Refs
Pyu city-states Graveyard at Hanlin, Pyu ancient city (2).jpg Pyu Ancient City In Myanmar UNESCO World Heritage 003.jpg 20160810 Bawbawgyi Pogoda Sri Ksetra Pyay Myanmar 9252.jpg Myanmar|  Myanmar Cultural:
(ii), (iii), (iv)
5,809 ha (proper); 6,790 ha (buffer zone) 2014 The site includes three of the six main Pyu city-states, namely Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra. [13]

UNESCO Tentative List of Myanmar

Site Image Location Proposed criteria Year Listed as Tentative Site Description Refs
Bagan Bagan, Burma.jpg Mandalay Region Cultural 1996 The site includes all of the monuments throughout the ancient capital of the Pagan kingdom. [14]
Wooden Monasteries of Konbaung Period: Ohn Don, Sala, Pakhangyi, Pakhannge, Legaing, Sagu, Shwe-Kyaung (Mandalay) Shwenandaw 3873595913 42570bcd36.jpg Multiple locations Cultural 1996 The site includes seven wooden monasteries, nameyly, Ohn Don, Sala, Pakhangyi, Pakhannge, Legaing, Sagu, and Shwe-Kyaung (Mandalay). [15]
Badah-lin and associated caves Cupules at Padah-Lin Cave 1.jpg Shan State Cultural 1996 The site includes various caves used as workshop and rock painting sites in the Paleolithic to Neolithic periods. [16]
Ancient cities of Upper Myanmar: Innwa, Amarapura, Sagaing, Mingun, Mandalay MalNu Monastery.jpg Amarapure.JPG Sagaing2.jpg Mingun.jpg Mandalay-Palace-from-Watch-Tower.JPG Multiple locations Cultural 1996 The site includes the historic cities of Innwa, Amarapura, Sagaing, Mingun, Mandalay [17]
Myauk-U Archaeological Area and Monuments MysticalMraukU.jpg Rakhine State Cultural 1996 The site includes all monuments built by the Arakanese kingdom's capital between the 15th to 16th centuries. [18]
Inle Lake Inle 09.jpg Shan State Cultural 1996 The site includes the mountain lake and its preserved cultural landscape. [19]
Mon cities: Bago, Hanthawaddy Bago-Rundblick von Mahazedi Paya (4).JPG Bago Region Cultural 1996 The site includes all monuments in Bago, formerly called Hanthawaddy. [20]
Ayeyawady River Corridor Irrawaddy-River-Myanmar-Burma-2005.jpg Multiple locations Natural 2014 The site includes three main segments, namely Mingun to Kyauk Maung segment, Moda Section,Takaung to Shwegu segment, and Shwegu to Bhamo segment. [21]
Hkakabo Razi Landscape Kachin State Natural 2014 The site includes Hkakabo Razi National Park and Hponkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary, along with a proposed Southern Extension of Hkakabo Razi National Park. [22]
Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Indawgyi Lake and Indawgyi Pagoda.jpg Kachin State Natural 2014 The site includes the entire Indawgyi lake. [23]
Natma Taung National Park Nat Ma Taung Summit1.JPG Chin State Natural 2014 The site includes Nat Ma Taung, the highest point in Chin State. [24]
Myeik Archipelago MerguiArchipelagoMap.png Tanintharyi Region Natural 2014 The site includes more than 800 islands of primarily limestone and granite. The archipelago is home to the Moken people. [25]
Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary "Hukaung Valley".jpg Kachin State Natural 2014 The site is highly significant in the conservation of Indochinese tigers. [26]
Taninthayi Forest Corridor Female Gurney's Pitta, January 2010.jpg Taninthayi Region Natural 2014 The site is an important mixed deciduous forest with bamboo clumps as well as grassland and is a thriving site for the endangered Gurney's pitta. [27]


Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has, in the past, asked for tourism to be boycotted. However, she has not asserted this view recently. This might be due to public opinion being in favour of tourism. The majority of democracy advocates demand a complete boycott of tourism to Burma. Other pro-democracy activists, such as Ma Thanegi, advocate small scale tourism, and careful spending.

In May 2011, however, Aung San Suu Kyi and her party National League for Democracy expressed the opinion that responsible tourism to Burma should be encouraged. Tourists are welcome to Burma provided they are "keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country while enjoying a happy and fulfilling holiday in Burma."[28][29] In their official statement they request not only the development of the people's livelihood but also the promotion of "self respect and self-reliance in the people."[30]

Certain tour books, such as Lonely Planet, cover Burma, stating that it provides balanced information and spending methods to get the money into the hands of the people, while some, such as Rough Guides, refuse to publish on Burma. Most Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the Western world recommend travel agencies and citizens not to engage in tourism activities in Burma.[31]

Research conducted in 2012 cautions against the assumption that more foreign tourism, even in the framework of the government's "Responsible Tourism Policy,"[32] would automatically support the people of Burma and lead to a Trickle-down effect.[33] Rather, it concludes, tourism would most likely benefit crony businesses and further entrench human rights violations.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Amid Burma Tourism Boom, Calls for Govt to Aid Development". Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Feng, Yingqiu (1 June 2011). "Myanmar continues efforts in developing tourism". Xinhua. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Voices For Burma's tourism policy
  4. ^ "Report on Tourism in Burma" (PDF). Info Birmanie. March 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 January 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Table 29.OVERSEAS VISITORS". Central Statistical Organization. Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Tourist income surges 70% in Myanmar". 25 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "Tourism of Myanmar" (PDF). telegraph. Retrieved 1 April 2018. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Myanmar Tourism Statistics 2014" (PDF). Central Statistical Organization. Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Myanmar Tourism Statistics". Central Statistical Organization. Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. 
  12. ^ "Myanmar Travel Agency". p. Tourist Destinations. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Chitwan National Park". UNESCO. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
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  28. ^ Michael Kerr (12 April 2012). "Burma: how can holidaymakers visit ethically?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  29. ^ Charlie Norton (14 August 2009). "Burma opposition leader Suu Kyi: 'Tourism might help'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  30. ^ "NLD statement No 10/05/11 released on 20th May 2011 regarding tourism in Burma". National League for Democracy. 20 May 2011. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  31. ^ "UK successful in stopping travel to Burma. Information from Burma Campaign UK". Mark Farmaner, Media and Campaigns Officer. Archived from the original on 23 August 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  32. ^ "Myanmar Responsible Tourism Policy". Burma Center Prague. Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  33. ^ "Responsible Tourism in Myanmar: Current Situation and Challenges". Burma Center Prague. November 2012. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 

External links

  • EcoBurma: a non-profit project promoting responsible tourism to Burma
  • The Smiling Seahorse: Dive cruises in Mergui Archipelago
  • dubai desert safari
  • Myanmar Tourism Watch (A project that is mapping issues caused by tourism in Burma.)
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