Tourist arrivals in Myanmar reached 4.68 million in 2015, according to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. This is within the range of its previous prediction of between 4.5 to 5 million tourists. Numbers have been steadily increasing from 800,000 in 2011 to 3.08 million in 2014, according to official statistics.
The same figures show that the tourism sector generated US$1.78 billion in revenue during 2014 however comparable data for 2015 has yet to be released. In addition the data reveals that there are just under 1,300 hotels around the country.
More and more people are visiting the fledgling tourist destination, drawn by the opportunity to explore new experiences, paths less trodden and a country still opening up its treasures to outsiders.
In Bagan, more historic sites are being unearthed, no doubt proving a strong draw for the cultural tourism sector. A local magazine has reported that several new pagoda sites have been discovered during an archaeological inventory of the town’s ancient temples.
Reports state the pagoda inventory, due to be concluded in February, is part of Myanmar’s efforts to have Bagan listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archaeology and National Museum Department deputy director general U Thein Lwin revealed that over 800 pagodas have been accounted for in just two of Bagan’s 11 administrative zones. According to Ministry of Tourism statistics more than 250,000 foreign tourists visited the monasteries of Bagan in 2015.
Tourists may also be choosing Myanmar over its near neighbours for reasons of cost and red-tape. Malaysia’s near-tenfold increase in visa fees could also be responsible for a knock-on increase in tourist numbers. The Myanmar Times reports that as of January 18, the cost of a Malaysian visa has risen from US$6 to $57, both for tourists and migrant workers, and all applications must be made through a one-stop service centre.
The report quotes the visa centre saying that travel companies are required to submit a list of package-tour passengers to the Malaysian Embassy for approval before starting the visa application process.