Travel companies in Burma reopened last October after domestic tourism nearly came to a halt since the COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. There were 4.3 million international arrivals to Burma in 2019. “Business cannot operate like before COVID-19. There are only a handful of places in the country that you can safely travel to. Only those places are available for domestic tourism,” said Naung Naung Han, chairperson of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneur Association.
During the recent Thadingyut festival, many domestic tourists visited areas like Bagan, Ngwe Saung, Chaung Tha and Ngapali. But it is impossible to ensure the safety of tourists due to the uprising against the military following the February 2021 coup. Domestic tourism in 2022 has only grown by 10 to 20 percent compared with the previous year, according to Naung Naung Han.
Local tour operators hope that Burma’s tourism sector may rebound in 2023. “There were around seven million domestic travellers before COVID-19. It [will be] really difficult to reach that number,” Naung Naung Han added. The junta allowed for the resumption of international flights into Burma on April 17, 2022. It opened up its tourist e-visa program after the country’s borders were closed for more than two years. Travel warnings to Burma have been issued by several countries due to the political instability and violence following the 2021 military coup.