The number of days foreigners are allowed to stay in Bagan with the Bagan Cultural Zone permit has been reduced from five to three days. This move means that the US$20/MMK25,000 permit fee paid by foreigners entering Bagan now allows them to stay for two fewer days. The announcement by the authorities has been met with a mixed range of comments and reactions from stakeholders in the tourism industry.
Critics say that the monsoon season usually sees lower tourist arrival numbers than any other time of the year and so this should be a key time for promoting the tourism industry rather than making negative changes. Making such major changes at this important time of the year is said to show a lack of understanding and weak knowledge of the tourism industry.
“Such type of management decisions causes instability in the industry. In the tourism business, you have to focus on promoting when traveller arrivals have become lower in the low-season. At this time, they are reducing the visit permit days from five to three. Whether the number of days should be less or more, such major changes of practice should not be done at this time of year,” said U Naing Htun, a Bagan-based tour guide.
The change of permit duration was officially announced on 29 June with the approval of the Ministry of Culture, Archeology and National Museums.
The announcement mentioned no change of zone fees in Bagan, only the change in length of the permitted stay. The new practice has been in effect since July 1.
Others had different comments: Ko Yan Naing who is also a Bagan-based tour guide said,
“The number of days the permit now allows may be enough for visiting Bagan, but it is creating more work for those of us making tour schedules for tourists there. If the tourists would like to stay there longer, they will have to pay additional fees.”
During Myanmar’s Green Season, tourist arrivals are lower than any other time of the year. Therefore, all organizations including the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and other tourism-related businesses such as hotels and airlines have been working on tasks to attract travellers including offering low-season benefits and price reductions.