Myanmar Expects 5 Million Tourists in 2020 Despite Virus Fears

(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar expects to achieve its target of attracting 5 million tourists in 2020, even as fears about the deadly coronavirus that originated in China cast a long shadow over the travel industry.

“We’re well-prepared to prevent an outbreak of this virus,” Maung Maung Kyaw, head of the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism, said in an interview, citing coordination with the Health Ministry on a plan of action.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 100 people in China and sickened thousands. Asia’s top economy has suspended outbound group tours to try and prevent the spread of the disease, denting the outlook for regional tourism.

“We’ve been screening for the disease at all international gateways,” Maung Maung Kyaw said in the capital, Naypyidaw.

Myanmar received 4.4 million visitors last year, a 23% climb from 2018 powered by surging Asian arrivals, according to government data. The number of Chinese tourists more than doubled.

The stigma of genocide allegations over the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority may deter higher-spending European and U.S. visitors. Officials have said negative perceptions of the country are the biggest risk for tourism.

The industry accounts for about 7% of the economy and supports over 1 million jobs, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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