Karenni Tour Operators Call on Gov’t to Lift Travel Restrictions

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Tour operators in Karenni (Kayah) State say that the state’s government, which has prioritized tourism as a growth industry, should make it easier for them to take tourists into areas that are currently off-limits to foreigners.

“If they won’t allow us to bring tourists to certain places, they should at least explain why. It would be better if they lifted restrictions. Our region is not especially chaotic,” said Ma Zune Zune Pyae Phyo, the managing director of Amazing Kayah Travel and Tours.

According to people in the industry, the government’s red tape is standing in the way of achieving its stated goal of making tourism a cornerstone of the state’s economic development.

“Sometimes we have to cancel tours because of all the rules. We have to seek permission from the state government at least one week in advance if we want to conduct a tour for foreigners,” Ma Zune Zune Pyae Phyo told Kantarawaddy Times.

There are some areas that foreign tourists are not allowed to enter at all. Tour operators say the state government should review its reasons for keeping foreigners out of these areas and reconsider the restrictions.

According to some local businessmen, the government offers more opportunities to foreign investors than to those based in the state—a charge that officials deny.

“We don’t discriminate between domestic and international investment. We deal with both equally. We are working under the same law. We do not discriminate,” Daw May Myo Zaw, the director of the Kayah State Investment and Companies Department, told Kantarawaddy Times.Local tourism businesses said, however, that the government could do more to promote the industry by meeting with them to discuss ways of setting up a framework and policies for the tourism sector.

At the 2019 Tourism Conference held in the state capital Loikaw earlier this year, the state’s chief minister, El Phoung Sho, said that tourism had grown more than any other sector of the economy since the current government came to power three years ago.

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