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A sharp increase in independent travellers pushed tourist arrivals up more than 20 percent in January, official figures showed last week, confirming earlier reports from tour operators that tourist numbers were continuing to increase after a record year in 2010.
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism figures show 35,965 foreign tourists passed through the Yangon gateway in January, up 21.43pc on the 29,618 recorded 12 months earlier.
It was the third straight increase in January arrivals, which bottomed out at just 19,024 visitors in 2008.
Foreign individual travellers, know as FITs, made up the majority of the increase, rising 47.7pc on January 2010 to 24,024.
More than 54pc of visitors were from Asia, with the largest number coming from Thailand (5737) and South Korea (2608). France led the way in terms of European visitors with 2771 for the month, followed by Germany (1936) and the United Kingdom (1225).
Representatives in the travel industry said they were hopeful the number of independent travellers visiting Myanmar would remain strong through the low season, which runs from May to September.
“Myanmar normally receives FIT visitors from European countries, mostly from France, Germany and Italy,” said Ma Aye Mya Thu, executive director of Wonderful Golden Land Travels and Tours. “We expect to see be more FIT visitors from Spain during the monsoon season.”
Meanwhile, package travellers were sharply down, at just 856 compared to last January’s 4048.
A spokesperson for Exotissimo Travel in Yangon said the company had received a lot of group bookings for March.
“The group tours booking for February and March are still very good. As we specialise in the European market, we usually get group tours from France and Germany,” said product manager Ko Ye Thiha Thwin.
The number of visitors arriving on business and social visas rose 42.5pc and 9.8pc respectively, according to the figures.
The rise comes following a record-breaking year for the industry, and many are anticipating further increases in 2011.
Figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism show 295,174 foreign tourists passed through the Yangon gateway, a 29.8pc increase on 2009.
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