The ASEAN Tourism Forum is a regional strategy to promote the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as a single tourist destination. This is the first time that the event has been held in Myanmar, and it took place at the Myanmar International Conference Centre in Nay Pyi Taw. The event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations.
The theme of this year’s 34th ATF was ‘ASEAN – Tourism Towards Peace, Prosperity and Partnership’ and the event was officially opened by the President of the Union of Myanmar, HE. U Thein Sein. The attendance comprised 2,000 delegates from over 50 countries.
Myanmar is known as the Golden Land, and has really only begun to open up as a tourist destination after the doors literally opened up after the political events of 2011. There is now a greater awareness of the benefits that international tourism can bring to this emerging destination. The Ministry of Tourism intends to promote a number of new destinations, including the Myeik Archipelago, Loikaw in Kayah state, and Putao in the north of the country.
More than three million tourists are expected to visit the country in 2015. There has already been spectacular growth in arrivals from 2.04 million in 2013 to 3.08 million in 2014, an increase of 51%.
Myanmar now offers an e-visa, for which applicants should complete an online visa application and make payment with a credit card. The average turnaround is five days. The e-visa costs $50 and is valid for 28 days’ travel in the country.
The most impressive attraction in Nay Pyi Taw is the Golden Uppatasani Pagoda.It was opened in 2009 and is a replica of the great Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, it is located on a hill looking down on the city with a large monastery complex below. The White Elephant house is located beside the Pagoda.