Myanmar introduces visas on arrival for tourists
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government will offer visas on arrival to boost the country's nascent tourism sector, a travel industry official said on Tuesday.
Tourist visas, which are normally arranged days in advance at an embassy abroad, will be now be available at international airports in Mandalay and the biggest city, Yangon, said Tin Tun Aung, secretary of the Myanmar Travel Entrepreneurs Association.
"We heartily welcome it," Tin Tun Aung told Reuters. "I'm sure it will have a strong impact on tourist arrivals to our country."
The cost of the visa will be $30 and would be valid for 28 days, he added.
Although Myanmar is rich in jungles, beaches and mountains and is dotted with hundreds of golden Buddhist temples, its tourism industry remains largely undeveloped.
Total tourist arrivals in Myanmar during for the fiscal year 2009-2010 stood at 300,000, compared with 255,288 for the same period a year earlier. Some 315,536 people traveled to Myanmar in the 2005-2006 period, official data showed.
Those figures are dwarfed by neighboring Thailand, which drew 14.1 million tourists last year.
Many potential visitors are deterred by the poor reputation of the country and its hardline military rulers, who are accused of corruption, stifling democratic freedoms and presiding over decades of human rights abuses.
Myanmar's government plans to hold its first election in two decades some time this year and is on a drive to privatize numerous industries, including shipping and air travel, to attract more foreign investment, which has been restricted by Western sanctions on the regime. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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