Travel agencies in Burma are facing losses as many foreign tourists have cancelled their planned visits to the country after a spate of bombings claimed two lives and injured an American woman.
It follows reports that a number of western governments, including the US, the UK, Australia and France, have issued travel warnings to their citizens, in some cases advising against all but essential travel.
Aye Kyaw, executive director of the Rubyland Tourism Services said many travellers, mostly from European countries, had cancelled their trips to the country citing fears for their safety in the wake of a bomb attack at the prestigious Traders Hotel in downtown Rangoon on Monday.
“The problem is the bomb actually went off inside a hotel room which means it’s not safe for people to even stay indoors – the issue is becoming significantly pressing,” Aye Kyaw told DVB.
“When tourists cancel their trips, we have to refund them money but at the same time, we have already paid fees in advance for booking at hotels and airlines and in the end, we are the ones who face the most losses.”
Aye Kyaw said that the tour operators quite often end up not getting refunds from hotels and airlines and urged the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to issue directives to facilitate a compromise.
The UK government has warned that there is a “high threat from terrorism” in Burma and urged its citizens to avoid travel to any regions affected by ethnic violence, including Arakan, Kachin and Shan states.
Meanwhile, the US embassy has urged “caution” but insisted that there was “no indication” that Americans were being specifically targeted.
Aye Mra Thar, an official at Myanmar Airways International, said it was too early to tell what kind of impact it could have on their business.
“We have not seen much decline in passengers as the [bombing] took place just a couple of days ago – so far our flights are continuing as usual,” said Aye Mra Thar.
A senior official at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism echoed these sentiments.
“So far the situation is normal – we haven’t heard of any airline flights being cancelled – but we will have to wait and see what the impact will be,” said the official.
“Also, the culprit for the Traders bombing has [already] been caught – the news will fade away in a matter of time.”
On Tuesday, police announced that they had arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with the violence, while another is wanted for questioning. But no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which have targeted locations around the country in a string of low-intensity, home-made bombs since Friday.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has previously expressed hopes that around 2 million tourists would come to Burma in 2013, as the country continues to open its doors to foreigners. According to government statistics, some 1.1 million tourists had visited the country as of September this year.