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Burma, Thailand push ‘one destination’ tourism cooperation

Hot-air balloons carrying tourists take off before sunrise over the ancient Burmese city of Bagan, a major draw for Thai Buddhist pilgrims and tourists across the globe, on 11 January 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

Thailand and Burma have vowed to stimulate tourism and raise the number of visitors between the neighbouring nations to 1.5 million by 2020 as part of a “two countries, one destination” cooperative scheme.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) signed a memorandum of understanding last Friday with the Myanmar Tourism Federation to promote tourism between the countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Burma boasts high potential for tourism because of its natural and cultural resources.

The TAT was ordered to study the possibility of launching joint marketing programmes with Burma and other countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as well as the viability of code­sharing aviation routes, specifically for Phuket­Ranong­Myeik and Chiang Mai­Mandalay­Bagan.

In 2016, the number of travellers who visited both countries on the same trip totalled 490,000.

Burma welcomed 2.9 million foreign tourists in 2016, a decrease of 38 percent from the previous year, reported Burma’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. In 2015, 4.68 million travellers visited Burma.

Of total visitors last year, over 1 million used Rangoon’s international airport as the entry point.

Over 700,000 came from Thailand, the biggest source, followed by China, Japan and South Korea.

By nationality, Thai visitors topped the list at 207,000. Burma also welcomed 126,500 Chinese, 95,400 Japanese and 63,000 Koreans.

Somkid said Burmese authorities have asked Thailand to help provide an intensive training programme on Thai language for local guides and tourism management courses for Burma’s local tourism operators, citing Thailand’s success in drawing 32 million foreign tourists in 2016.

He also suggested that Burmese authorities develop more community products to generate tourism income for locals. In addition, they should establish official tourism websites to provide information on tourism, said Somkid.

He said Burma should focus on quality visitors and learn from Thai experiences, noting excessive visitors with a lack of proper management will lead to deterioration of tourism sites.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here.