Al Kuwaitiah  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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Myanmar targets 5 million tourists with e-visa


Myanmar launched an online visa application Monday promising an end to painful waits for permits to visit the once secretive nation as it tries to lure 5million tourists a year by 2015.

The e-visa is open to tourists from 41 countries, from the United States and Britain to China, Japan and North Korea, Minister of Immigration and Population Khin Yi told reporters. Middle Eastern countries covered include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.

The entry permit will cost $50 and be valid for 28 days to those arriving at Yangon's international airport, he said, adding it will take five days to process.

"This is a special moment for our country... as the process improves, we will extend it - more countries will be added in the list," he added.

Two years in the making, the scheme has cost impoverished Myanmar $17 million but is a step towards wider e-government in a country whose technology lags its regional neighbors after decades of junta rule which stifled investment and the economy.

During military rule, tourists arrived in a trickle due to strict vetting by the regime or because they were deterred by international sanctions, which have since mainly been rolled back.

But since Myanmar embarked on democratic reforms in 2011, tourists have started making a beeline for the country - long seen as an undiscovered frontier.

Two million overseas visitors arrived in 2013, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, with more expected this year.

The Myanmar embassy in regional hub Bangkok is deluged daily with visa requests, leading to hourslong queues.

Drawn by Myanmar's famous temples, culture and spectacular scenery, visitors are also confronted by expensive or substandard hotels and a limited tourist infrastructure.

The country wants to build up the lucrative tourism market, with a new airport planned to cope the surging number of arrivals in Yangon.

Myanmar is targeting 5 million tourists next year with the e-visa a key part of the strategy, the minister said, adding the system has been backed-up to survive the electrical faults and frequent blackouts that afflict the country.

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