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Two articles recently explored the dilemma Burma currently faces as the nation evolves politically and the West begins easing sanctions – Burma is beginning to welcome waves of eager international tourists, yet remains wary of facing problems such as cultural erosion and rampant sex tourism as neighbors like Thailand have experienced.
Hailed by everyone in the Western press from CNN to Lonely Planet to Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the world’s “in” places to visit in 2012, Burma finds its tourism industry ready to increase exponentially in the next three years if its sadly inadequate infrastructure can possibly match the demand.
Ohn Myint, Rangoon’s deputy director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said, “We have estimates that in 2012, we can receive 500,000 tourists through Yangon International Airport. In 2015, we will expect over 1 million tourist arrivals to Myanmar.”
Revenues from tourism — $319 million last year — have doubled since 2008, according to government figures. The average tourist spends $120 a day, a figure that is certain to rise.
Two-thirds of visitors come from Asia, mostly Chinese and Thais, and Western Europeans account for 21 percent. Only 21,700 Americans visited Myanmar last year, about 5.5 percent of the total.
The Irawaddy article talks about the Two Countries, one “Destination” campaign between Burma and Thailand, and Burma’s current reliance on Thailand for its international airport as well as taking advice on how to ramp up its under-prepared tourism infrastructure from the Tourism Authority of Thailand – a move many Burmese are critical of as the industry in Thailand is seen as the opposite of what the Burmese hope for.
To learn more about the burgeoning tourism industry and the socio-political ethical implications of visiting the country now from a foreigner’s perspective, read Burmese Are Wary of Tourism’s Dark Side on the International Herald Tribune.
To learn more about Burmese plans and concerns about tourism’s expansion from an internal perspective, read
Beaches, Temples and Sex—Will Burmese Tourism Follow the Thai Model?