Tuesday, April 23rd 2024

Few Visitors to Ngapali Beach Anymore with Collapse of Tourism amid Multiple Travel Restrictions and Escalating War

Amid ongoing clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Junta, alongside travel restrictions in Rakhine State, bookings for Ngapali beach hotels during this year's Thingyan festival are only at 30 percent, marking a significant decline from previous years.


According to a hotel manager interviewed by Narinjara, while last year saw approximately 80 percent occupancy of Ngapali beach hotels by both local and foreign tourists during March and April, traditionally known as the Thingyan period, this year's projected arrival rate is only around 30 percent.


"Last year, almost 80 percent of Ngapali hotels were fully booked. However this year, I anticipate only around 30 percent of visitors will arrive. In the past, all hotels were bustling with guests during this time. Last year, we saw a surge in tourists beginning around this month”, he said.


Before the pandemic and the coup, Thingyan, Myanmar's traditional New Year's festival, thrived as one of the country's most vibrant celebrations, attracting numerous tourists due to the extended holidays.


Another hotel manager also noted that only a limited number of guests from Yangon, Mandalay, and southern Shan State have made bookings for the Thingyan period this year.


In Ngapali Beach Hotel Zone, which comprises approximately 50 hotels, motels, and inns, there is little expectation of foreign guests visiting Rakhine State this year.


The Ngapali-Yangon flight ticket prices have surged from 180,000 MMK to 220,000 MMK, alongside the Junta's order for travelers to obtain approval letters from police stations and ward administrators, leading to a decline in leisure travelers, also decreasing the number of visitors to Ngapali.


The Junta is conducting rigorous inspections on individuals traveling to Thandwe, Ngapali, and Gwa in Rakhine State, as well as those journeying to the mainland from these regions,  a local said.


"These checks mainly focus on people holding national identification cards (NICs) issued to residents of Rakhine State starting with the number 11/. The authorities conduct thorough investigations into the addresses and personal information of these NIC holders. For those deemed suspicious, they contact the ward administrators who issued the approval letters and even conduct further inquiries. Now restrictions for those wishing to travel from Rakhine State to mainland regions like Yangon and Mandalay are significant. Even air travel for essential purposes is heavily regulated”, he told Narinjnara.


When asked about the current status of tourist arrivals in Rakhine State, the director of the Rakhine State Hotel and Tourism Ministry responded that it was not feasible to provide a specific statement due to the ongoing circumstances in the region.


A group of 10 Russian tourists arrived in Ngapali on October 28 as part of a pilot project, following the Junta's announcement to encourage the arrival of Russian tourists. However, the project turned out to be nothing more than an empty promise and quickly disappeared.


The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism controlled by the Junta, released a list of 14 destinations prioritized to receive domestic and foreign tourists for this year's tour season, which includes Kyaukphyu, Ngapali, and Munaung in Rakhine State. However in reality there is minimal presence of travelers in these areas.

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