New data suggests that Myanmar’s rapidly emerging tourism sector will grow strongly between 2016 and 2021, opening up new revenue streams for the South-East Asian nation. Htet Tayza comments.
Myanmar’s tourism industry just keeps growing. Data quoted by TR Weekly, an online regional travel news source, suggests that in 2010, Myanmar’s tourism earnings equalled US$254m. The country’s tourism revenues just keep increasing, hitting US$319m in 2011, US$534m in 2012 and US$926m in 2013, before ballooning to US$1.8bn in 2014.
The expansion of Myanmar’s tourism industry has been supported by increasing spend volumes. During 2012, the average tourist in Myanmar spent US$135 per day. An estimate previously predicted that average tourist spend in the South-East Asian country would hit US$150 in 2015. However, this estimate was too conservative, as average tourist spend reached US$170 in 2014.
Estimates released by the country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism suggests that Myanmar’s tourism sector is set to keep on expanding. The Ministry predicted that during the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, new arrivals to Myanmar will measure 5,060,000. Ministry estimates indicate that tourist spend will eclipse US43BN within the same space of time.
Tourism spend increased by 19% to hit US$2.1bn during the 2015 calendar year, with new arrivals reaching 4.7m. The Ministry has also stated that it plans to issue more licences for guesthouses, tours and tour guides in Myanmar. Up to May 2016, the Ministry issued 1,351 licences for hotels, 2,130 for tour firms, 6,309 for tour guides and 536 for tourists’ transportation vehicles nationwide.
Assessing expansion potential
Now, it looks as though Myanmar’s tourism industry is set to record strong long-term growth as well. Recently, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism forecast that Myanmar will attract seven million tourist arrivals per year by 2021, generating over US$9bn annually for the nation’s economy. According to Eleven Myanmar, a national news agency, these projections are based on Myanmar’s recently released second five year National Development Plan.
All of these figures quoted in this article indicate that Myanmar’s tourism industry is thriving. However, critics argue that the Ministry is counting day visits in these calculations, casting doubt on the data’s accuracy. In early 2016, the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee asked the country’s government to implement a data collection system, providing the industry with the accurate statistics needed to focus its marketing strategies more effectively.
Htet Tayza’s commentary
Tourism is a major economic driver for Myanmar. Industry body the World Travel and Tourism Council shed more light on this issue in its Travel & Tourism Economic Impact in Myanmar 2015 report. Within this paper, the organisation estimated that tourism’s total contribution to Myanmar’s gross domestic product (GDP) to rise from 4.8% of GDP in 2014 to 6.1% of GDP in 2025.
In other words, it is clear that the Ministry’s estimates are somewhat valid; Myanmar’s tourism sector is likely to record significant growth between 2016 and 2021. However, it is vital that the sector can access accurate data, so it can target promotional efforts more effectively. Many operating within the industry doubt the accuracy of existing data, indicating that Myanmar’s government may want to follow calls to introduce a data collection system, in order to ensure tourism keeps growing.