TOURISTS arriving at Yangon International Airport on a newly launched Myanmar Airways Inter-national (MAI) service from Siem Reap will be eligible for a visa-on-arrival, an airline spokesperson said last week.
“This new policy came into effect on February 23 – the day our inaugural flight took off from Yangon to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I hope this new policy will attract more tourists to Myanmar through Siem Reap,” the spokesperson said.
The first flight between Yangon and Siem Reap departed Yangon at 9am and arrived in Siem Reap at 11:10am, with the return flight leaving Siem Reap at 12:10pm and arriving in Yangon at 1:20pm. The airline is using an Airbus A-320 that can accommodate 166 passengers on the route and will offer flights every Wednesday and Saturday.
Myanmar introduced a new visa policy on May 1, 2010, that allowed foreign visitors from any country to apply for a visa-on-arrival when passing through Yangon and Mandalay international airports without having to make any prior arrangements with travel agencies.
However, four months later the Department of Immigration and National Registration announced it would suspend the visa-on-arrival program until a system could be implemented to more thoroughly check the records of incoming tourists. Official figures show arrivals through Yangon airport over the period the visa-on-arrival system was in place were up 54 percent on the corresponding period in 2009.
U Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, vice chairman of Myanmar Marketing Committee (MMC) and managing director of All Asia Exclusive Travel, described the limited reintroduction of visa-on-arrival as “very encouraging news indeed”.
“This positive policy will push sales [of travel packages] between the two countries and has opened another gateway into Myanmar,” he said. “The new government deserves a big applause for introducing this constructive policy.”
MAI also plans to begin flights between Yangon and Guangzhou in southern China by March 3, said Daw Aye Mra Tha, the airline’s assistant marketing manager. MAI will operate flights to Guangzhou on Thursdays and Sundays using an Airbus A-320.
“We will not only offer scheduled flights but also charter flights on the route when the gem emporium is held in Nay Pyi Taw in March because many merchants from Guangzhou come here for the emporium,” she said.
She said the airline plans to add more international destinations this year after acquiring a new aircraft.
“In early March, we will have one more Airbus A-320 and are planning to fly new routes, such as Yangon-Singapore-Jakarta and Yangon-New Delhi,” she said. “In the longer term we are planning flights to Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai, Doha and Bali direct from Yangon.”
MAI currently operates scheduled flights to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Gaya in India and Siem Reap in Cambodia with a fleet consisting of three Airbus A-320s and one Airbus A-321.