Myanmar, a country that boasts some of the most spectacular destinations in the region, has announced that it hopes to welcome international tourists in early 2022.
Although this may be good news for travelers planning to travel after the lockdown period, in Myanmar, it isn't straightforward.
Most countries that have closed their borders in the past two years to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Still, Myanmar is also responding to the consequences of the February 2021 coup, in which the military government overthrew the elected one.
The question now is, given Covid-19 still being a problem in Myanmar and the travel world, and the terrorists currently gripping the country, will anyone come?
Officials have set up a website to encourage tourist interest, but they're warning that the opening will be subject to successful Covid-19 mitigation. Zeyar Htun, director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, confirmed to CNN that we're planning on reopening tourism if we can safely and conveniently travel.
Governments warned travelers of their country to stay away from Covid-19 concerns and instability in the wake of the coup. United States Department of State currently has two level-four "Do Not Visit" alerts for Myanmar, one for its high number of coronavirus spread cases and another for the ongoing political situation.
In another consultation report, it pointed out that "Myanmar is facing serious political, economic, human rights and humanitarian crises due to the unbridled and brutal repression carried out by the powerful army."
Significant of Religion
At this time, there are not too many details about the reopening plan on Myanmar's official tourism website. Still, there are reports that the government will initially target tourists from Southeast Asia.
In addition to international holidaymakers, other travelers are eager to enter Myanmar as soon as available.
People of Burmese descent want to reconnect with their families, Buddhists are eager to see some sacred temples in the country, and some merchants need to inspect factories and other projects.
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, for example, is the most important Buddhist site in Myanmar. The bright gold, 30-meter-high building, houses several sacred Buddhist relics, including eight strands of hair that are said to have come from the Buddha's head. Hence, it is a popular place for Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.
Myanmar's military junta will be particularly keen to see the return of wealthy visitors from China, its key ally and investor.
Power outages and closures
When the doors of Myanmar open, travelers returning to the country will see significant changes since their last visit.
According to local CNN sources, infrastructure has been severely weakened, many businesses have been abandoned due to the country's economic pressures, and military generals now run the tourism industry.
Dillon says his contacts in Myanmar have told him of intermittent power outages and occasional internet shutdowns that can make it challenging to keep in touch with people outside the country.
International brands are also affected. According to its website, the Kempinski Hotel Naypyidaw, Myanmar, is a luxury five-star hotel in the country's capital and will be closed in mid-October in the "foreseeable future." It did not state the reason for the closure.
Pandaw, a Southeast Asian river cruise company specializing in Mekong tourism, announced that it will permanently close its operations in Myanmar and the broader region after operating for more than 25 years and blamed it on Covid-19 and "Myanmar's critical political situation."
Todd Handcock, President of Collinson International Asia Pacific, said that international travelers who visit Myanmar should ensure that they are prepared for emergencies and provide corporate clients with advice on safe travel and risk management.
"Unfortunately, Myanmar is now considered as a higher risk area," he said.
He also emphasized that when bad news is reported for people in any troubled country, it is crucial to give assurances to their homes to show that they are safe.
"I keep sending (my family) pictures of things happening around me," he said. "If your loved ones are worried, then as travelers, you must take additional measures to make sure they know."
As in the past, when the military coup happened in Myanmar, domestic and foreign countries have called for a boycott of any activities that benefit the military—including many tourist facilities and destinations controlled by generals.
According to Andrea Valentin, a former consultant of Myanmar's responsible tourism industry, the issue is complicated.
"Despite all the deaf attempts by the Hotel Tourism Ministry to pretend to be other, it's a bit frivolous to discuss tourism in Myanmar right now," she says. "It's no longer simply black and white. It's not North Korea yet."
Valentin states that it is still possible to travel in ways that do not help fund the junta, but that is difficult, and most businesses are more rural.
"Yes, it is still possible to travel responsibly in Myanmar. There are still many very safe and ethical places.
"In the past few times, there have been some amazing initiatives that we have carefully helped build, and they deserve our support."
"We don't believe in a boycott of tourism," she adds.