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Tourism industry escapes flood unscathed

A pagoda in Mrauk-U (PHOTO:DVB)

Flooding and landslides on the tail of Cyclone Komen have devastated 12 of 14 Burmese states and divisions, but tourism operators have reported that the industry has been largely unaffected.

U Myat Thu, operations manager for Columbus Travel and Tours, told Myanmar Times that key tourist destinations were operating as normal. Popular locations such as Inle Lake, Mandalay, and Bagan are still seeing tourist dollars in the low season.

“If we have clients whose plans include visiting flooded areas, we simply send them to alternate destinations. But so far we have not had any cancellations,” he told the Times.

He added that there were fewer tour packages this low season, but attributes it to poor exchange rates with the euro and US dollar.

“We hope to see many more package tours in the coming high season,” he added.

The 500-year-old site of Mrauk-U was in the path of floods last week, but thanks to the higher elevation of the stone pagodas, the ruins of the ancient Arakanese kingdom survived intact, though the low-lying town nearby was submerged.

The main gateways to Burma for package tourists – the country’s two main international airports at Rangoon and Mandalay – were unaffected by the floodwaters and no cancellations were reported.

Tourists rarely visit worst hit regions such as Arakan, Chin, Kale [Kalay] and Monywa, industry sources said, but that may change thanks to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism declaring 2016 “Visit Myanmar Year”.

President Thein Sein announced last year that Burma welcomed it’s three millionth tourist in early December, and the government has set a target of receiving 7.4 million tourists by 2020.

Despite these huge official numbers, it is unknown how many of the figure includes lorry drivers, traders, businessmen and day-trippers from neighbouring countries. Passages between Burma and neighbouring Thailand and China are used frequently for these purposes, and accurate data has been difficult to collect.

Read more on BURMA’S FLOOD CRISIS