Stakes soar for Myanmar tourism sector

Published on : Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Myanmar-tourismSeveral days of tension spilled into bloodshed on Tuesday in the western state of Rakhine, where Buddhist mobs killed six Muslims and burned dozens of homes in the latest outburst of violence in the strife-torn region.Recent anti-Muslim bloodshed close to Myanmar’s most popular tourist beach raises the stakes for an industry dependent on the former pariah state’s fluid transition to democracy.

 

The riots occurred just a few kilometres from Ngapali beach, the country’s remote and beautiful major resort, where the tourist season is just getting back into action after the monsoon.Foreigners are flocking back to Myanmar as a result of dramatic political reforms since direct military rule ended in 2011 that have lifted the veil on a country left isolated by decades of military rule.

 

As tensions rippled through towns further inland last week, a few scattered tourists at Ngapali padded across palm-fringed pristine sands at upmarket resorts seemingly oblivious to the violence.Ngapali is still safe to travel to, according to updated advice from the British foreign office, but visitors should “monitor local developments and keep in close contact with your tour operator in case the security situation there changes”.

 

The foreign office counsels against all but essential travel to the rest of Rakhine state, where two major outbreaks of communal violence last year left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless. Tourism is seen as an important growth industry for Myanmar.

 

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