The country, formerly known as Burma, has received widespread condemnation from across the geo-political landscape including the UN, which has branded its military operations against the minority group as “ethnic cleansing”.
So far more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled predominantly Buddhist Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result of a military counter-insurgency campaign, launched in August after Rohingya militants attacked security posts in Rakhine state on the country’s western coast.
Speaking to TTG at WTM London, Thomas Kyaw Min Htin, joint secretary general of Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF) and executive committee member of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Association(MTM) said the country had experienced a 6% year-on-year rise in global visitors so far in 2017 with the US, UK and France its main source markets outside Asia.
However despite the rise, Kyaw Min Htin admitted due to the media attention surrounding the ongoing conflict the increase “was maybe not as much as it should be”.
“It could perhaps have [grown] by 20-30% but we have seen only 6%,” he added. “But Westerners keep on coming despite the inaccurate reports.
“Western travellers are more savvy [to trust] what is being reported.”
Kyaw Min Htin said he was “100% sure” it was safe for foreign travellers to visit Myanmar with only “very small areas” in the north and west of the country prohibited for entry by the government.
He urged the international travel media and travel trade to “come see the truth” of the situation in person during 12 scheduled fam trips being run to boost awareness of Myanmar during 2018.
“I would ask any travel professionals, tour operators or NGOs to come to Myanmar and see what has actually happened and not just what has been reported.”
He claimed that despite meeting with travel partners in London since Saturday “no-one has said anything” about the Rohingya crisis or expressed a desire to pull operations from the country.
Myanmar has rejected the accusations of ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces were responding to militant activity.
Away from the Rohingya crisis, Kyaw Min Htin said the coming year would see Myanmar focus on “enhancing its digital profile” with more content and platform updates to its Myanmar.org and Myanmar.travel websites.
“We are working hard to spread the word this way and show the real side of Myanmar.”