Myanmar, which has some of the region’s most magnificent sites, has declared that it expects to begin accepting foreign tourists in early 2022, as numerous Southeast Asian countries lift travel restrictions.
While this may appear to be good news for people planning post-lockdown excursions, the situation in Myanmar is nuanced.
Most countries that have closed their borders in the last two years have done so mainly to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but Myanmar is still coping with the fallout from a military junta overthrowing the country’s democratically elected government in February 2021.
Visiting Myanmar, which was formerly ruled by the military for decades, has always faced tourists with a dilemma: whether to support what has been seen as an oppressive dictatorship or to aid those in need of assistance.
Will anybody come now, with Covid remaining a concern in the area and the larger world of tourism, as well as the upheaval now engulfing the country?
Officials have already built up a website in anticipation of increased visitor interest, but have stated that any opening will be contingent on effective Covid mitigation.
“We want to resume tourism for vaccinated travelers provided measures for safe and comfortable travel are well-prepared,” Zeyar Htun, deputy director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s Public Relations and Information Department, confirmed to reporters.
Meanwhile, some overseas tourists are being advised to avoid the country by their own governments, citing both Covid fears and insecurity following the coup.
The US State Department has issued two level four “do not travel” advisories for Burma, or Myanmar, one because of the high number of coronavirus infections and the other because of the continuing political turmoil.
“Burma is confronting a catastrophic political, economic, human rights, and humanitarian catastrophe owing to a ruthless crackdown by a powerful military that operates with impunity,” it says in a second advisory.
The Risk Factor
Todd Handcock, Asia Pacific president of Collinson International, advises business clients on traveling safely and managing risk, encourages international visitors who do decide to visit Myanmar to be prepared for emergencies.
“Unfortunately, Myanmar is now regarded as a high-risk area,” he explains.
According to him, any organization sending employees to Myanmar should have a “strong travel risk management procedure” in place. Employees should be well briefed on what they need to know and how to respond in the event of a crisis.
He also emphasizes the importance of sending reassurances home from any troubled nation to show that they are safe when bad news is published.
He says, “I constantly send (my family) images of what was going on around me.” “If you have loved ones who are concerned, go above and above as a traveler to ensure that they are informed.”