Just as Sri Lanka experienced a surge in inbound tourism following the ceasefire that ended the country's bloody 26 year civil war in May 2009, Myanmar – also known as Burma – is experiencing a leap in foreign arrivals as the country carries out political reforms, which have led to the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, general amnesty for 200 other political prisoners, and by-elections that saw all but one seat going to the National League for Democracy.
Inbound arrivals for the Southeast Asian country were up 53% during May 2012 compared with the same month the year before, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) reports.
In a move that is expected to further boost Myanmar's travel and tourism industries, Doha based Qatar Airways has announced plans to join the small but growing number of domestic and international airlines serving Myanmar's Yangon International Airport. Service will commence on 3 October 2012.
Overall, Southeast Asia registered an 8% increase in foreign arrivals, following a 15% increase in March, a 9% increase in April, and an 8% in May.
Cambodian arrivals were up 23%, Singapore's 14%, Indonesia's 8%, and Thailand's 8%. The Philippines, despite its recently launched “It's More Fun in the Philippines” marketing campaign, experienced a more moderate 6% increase following four consecutive months of double-digit growth.
Vietnam's inbound arrivals were down 13%, the first time the country has experienced negative growth since September 2011. Vietnam was the only country in the region to witness a drop in arrivals.
Pacific Arrivals Up 8%
Foreign arrivals in the Pacific also grew by 8% in May compared to the same month in 2011. Samoa registered an impressive growth rate of 30%, followed by the Northern Marianas with 20% , Guam with 17%, and Hawaii with 12%.
Arrivals in Tahiti were up 8%. Australia's inbound arrival rate grew by a modest 2%, and New Zealand's arrivals were flat at 0%.
South Asia Arrivals Up 6%
Once again, Sri Lanka led South Asia with an 18% increase in inbound arrivals. Nepal also experienced 6% growth, followed by India with 5% growth. The Maldives experienced a 1% drop in foreign arrivals.
Northeast Asia Arrivals Up 4%
Foreign arrivals in May were up an impressive 27% in Taiwan. The Republic of Korea experienced a similar increase.Hong Kong also had double digit growth at 13%.
China, however, saw a drop of 2%. Macau suffered a more serious decrease of 7% in foreign arrivals.
North America Mixed
The situation in North America has been decidedly volatile. Following a 12% increase in foreign arrivals in March, the United States and Canada had a mere 0.5% increase in arrivals in April, followed by a 1% drop in May. Mexico, meanwhile, suffered a 6% drop in both April and May.
“While there is significant variation in the results at the sub-regional and destination levels, the majority of Asia Pacific economies still reported growth during the month of May 2012,” says Martin J Craigs, CEO of PATA.
“It is evident, however, that the toughening global marketplace is having an impact on the Asia Pacific region. None of us can be afford to be complacent as we reach the midway point of calendar year 2012.”