Indirect Prohibition of Foreign Tourists to Arakan State

Sittwe: The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has indirectly banned foreign tourists from travelling to Arakan State, in a letter dated the 30th of August which was about tours in the region. It does not explicitly say who and who is not allowed on these tours said an official from the travel agency.

The subject of the letter is “Information on Provisionally Prohibited Tours.” The body reads  “Travel companies are informed that the following tours are not allowed due to the current regional situations. You will be informed again when they are allowed”.

The letter is undersigned by Yan Naing, the Head of the Office, on behalf of the union Minister. It prohibits travelling to Sittwe, Mrauk-U, Vesali and Mahar Muni in Arakan State and to Mailar in Shan State.

“The letter is written in a tricky way and does not say who exactly are not allowed to travel to those places. But we generally understand that it means foreigners as it will not be possible to prohibit domestic travellers to those places”, said the official on condition of anonymity.

He said the ban will cause great losses to the hotels and travel agencies in Arakan State as the travel season nears its beginning.

It is said that out of the 763 hotels in the whole Burma, there are 30 hotels with 908 bedrooms in Arakan State.

“From the 1st of January to the end of June this year 2012, there was a total 40,701 travelers— 14,931 domestic travellers and 25,770 foreigners. It has increased by 65 percent since than last year. In this improving situation, the Ministry has artfully banned the travel of foreigners to our region and this will hurt the travel industry in our region very badly”, said the official.

A young tourist guide from Sittwe said the situation in Arakan State is now stable and there is nothing to be worried about for foreigners who come to the region, but the travel ban imposed is likely due the fear that many foreigners will enter the region in the guise of tourists to investigatey the political unrest as the region is still under international attention.

According to the official, about 35, 000 million kyat has been invested and over 5,000 peoples employed in the tourist industry and local people in Sittwe and Mrauk-U are directly benefiting.