Myanmar to rejoin UNWTO

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The Temples of Bagan are a major tourism attraction in Myanmar
The Temples of Bagan are a major tourism attraction in Myanmar

Myanmar has announced plan to rejoin the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The country’s President, U Thein Sein, announced the move during an official visit to Myanmar by the UNWTO’s Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. President Sein joined the UNWTO and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) leaders in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw for the recent Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign.

“Tourism is a major sector of the economy not only for Myanmar but also for all countries around the world. It brings benefits to a country, boosts its economy and create employment opportunities,” said Sein. “We therefore request that our membership of UNWTO be restored so that we can obtain the relevant knowledge to further promote and develop our tourism sector.”

In a meeting, Rifai said Myanmar had “tremendous tourism potential” and assured the president that the UNWTO would support Myanmar’s efforts to develop its tourism industry.

“Myanmar is a country abundant in natural and cultural resources, the foundation of any tourism sector,” said Rifai. “Following talks with the Minister of Hotels, Tourism & Sport, U Tint San, UNWTO will lend its expertise in a number of areas, ranging from capacity-building to sustainable tourism practices and travel facilitation, to responsibly develop tourism for the benefit of all.”

Taleb Rifai
Taleb Rifai

During his visit, Rifai presented Sein with an open letter from UNWTO and WTTC on the importance of tourism to global growth and development. Accepting the letter, the president stated that “tourism should be considered a ‘smokeless industry’” and one that “boosts growth, creates job opportunities, conserves the environment and helps to maintain traditional arts and crafts”.

“Given the political support for tourism demonstrated today, Myanmar is set to significantly enhance its tourism sector over the coming years,” said Rifai. “At the same time, the international community has been greatly encouraged by recent reforms in Myanmar and this will no doubt be reflected in an increasing numbers of tourists. These tourists will quickly prove a vital source of jobs and economic growth, helping to secure the country’s future prosperity. UNWTO is 100% committed to supporting Myanmar, to make sure that its tourism development is a success story.”  

David Scowsill, President & CEO of the WTTC added; “I am pleased that the significance of the travel and tourism industry is increasingly being recognised by Myanmar. With its rich eco-diversity, natural and cultural heritage together with a commitment to responsible tourism, Myanmar is increasingly harnessing its travel and tourism potential. In 2011, the industry contributed MMK1.44 trillion (US$1.7 billion) to the GDP of the economy and contributed 726,500 jobs. By joining this global movement of heads of state and government through this signing of the open letter, the president demonstrates his commitment to support the growth and development of its travel and tourism industry.”

According to UNWTO’s long-term forecast, international tourist arrivals to Asia Pacific will increase from 204 million in 2010 to 535 million in 2030.

“Asia and the Pacific is the future powerhouse of global tourism and Myanmar is in a strategic position to receive a significant share of these arrivals,” said Rifai. 

According to official data, tourist arrival at Myanmar’s main air gateway, Yangon International Airport, exceeded 359,000 in 2011, but this figure is expected to surge to 1.5 million in 2012. Myanmar also recently announced plans to reintroduce visa-on-arrival facilities at Yangon airport.

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