Naw Pan Thinzar Myo, the Yangon Region government ethnic Karen Affairs Minister, has announced that Chinese arrivals to Myanmar have fallen by around 30% since the government introduced travel restrictions from China.
The government of Myanmar banned many flights from China to Yangon International Airport, the main entry point for foreign visitors to the country, in early February as a preventative measure against the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
Speaking at a press conference held by the Tourism Affairs Committee of the Yangon Region Legislative Assembly, Minister Naw Pan Thinzar Myo said that a substantial amount of Chinese tourist income has been lost as a result of the ban.
However, she added that the travel restrictions were deemed necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Myanmar and that the government would do everything in their power to increase the number of Chinese tourists coming to Myanmar in the future.
China-Myanmar Relations after Coronavirus
Myanmar (formerly Burma) shares a northeastern border with China’s Yunnan Province. However, Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, is over 2,300 kilometers from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the (Covid-19) outbreak originated.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, around 14 Chinese airlines operated services to Myanmar. However, after the government introduced the flight ban, only 4 airlines have been permitted to fly to Myanmar from China, from the cities of Guangzhou, Kunming, Mansi, and Shanghai.
The partial Chinese airline ban has resulted in a significant drop in the number of tourists from China entering Myanmar, with a difference of 2, 300 arrivals between the 5 days before and after the restrictions were implemented, according to the Yangon Region Government.
Businesses in the hotel and tourism sector in Myanmar have also noted a drop in custom because of coronavirus travel restrictions, according to Nature Dream Travel Managing Director, Sabe Aung.
“Visits by Chinese tourists have almost stopped,” she said. “Hotels have suffered a lot with very low occupancy rate during this time”.
Myanmar eVisa for Chinese Citizens Temporarily Suspended
At the moment, Myanmar has suspended the visa on arrival and eVisa application systems for Chinese citizens as a temporary precautionary measure.
Chinese passport holders are usually able to obtain a 30-day visa for Myanmar on arrival at Yangon International Airport, Nay Pyi Taw International Airport or Mandalay International Airport.
Travelers from China are also usually able to obtain an online Myanmar visa for tourism or business purposes through an electronic application, which eliminates the need to wait in a border queue upon arrival.
However, the government has confirmed it has temporarily stopped issuing these visa types to nationals of China. It will be necessary for Chinese citizens to apply for a Myanmar visa from an embassy or consulate for the time being.
Minister Naw Pan Thinzar Myo has expressed her hope that the government can relax the visa policy for China soon but stressed the prior application processes would not be reinstated until the risk of COVID-19 spread is minimized.
Chinese citizens are advised to check visa requirement updates for Myanmar for any changes in the availability of the online visa and visa on arrival, as travel restrictions regarding the coronavirus are likely to undergo further revisions.