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Burma sees increase in tourism despite Rohingya crises
Burma's tourism destinations increased by 18% last year to 3.44 million in spite of global condemnations of the Rohingya Muslim people. Myanmar's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said it was expecting some 3.5 million people to visit last year, after the number of people arriving dropped from 4.7 million in the last 12 month to 2.9 million in 2016.
"I think the number has risen because we have organised many publicity campaigns and the authorities have permitted visitors to visit previously limited areas," said U Myint Htwe, Assistant General Manager at the Department, in an interviewe. However, it may be hard to get accurate information in Myanmar. Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have escaped from Myanmar's Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year, when fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Force assaulted 25 policemen and military stations and killed a dozen safety officers.
They reacted with what they called "evacuation operations", with accounts of police and Buddhist militia who randomly attacked the Rohingya and burned their communities. Rex Tillerson in November denounced Myanmar's handling of the Rohingya as "ethnic cleansing". "We were expecting 3.5 million in 2017, but we only got 3.44 million from India's catastrophes and H1N1," said Myint Htwe, added that the effects of the Rakhine dispute were minimal because it was not an important travel area.
"We are expecting more than 3.44 million this year," he said. By 2015, the World Tourism Council estimates that Myanmar's tourism and tourism sectors would have grown by 8.4% by 2025 and become the main contributors to the country's GDP. The McKinsey Global Institute's 2013 Myanmar Global Institute estimates that by 2030 tourism could provide $14.1 billion to Myanmar's economic development and could provide employment for around 2.3 million population.
"Tourism in 2017 was definitely affected by the overall tourism industry, especially with respect to European visitors," said Enrico Cesenni, CEO of Myanmar Strategic Holdings Ltd, which invests in Myanmar's hotel and tourism industry.