YANGON, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar has rolled out plans to resume international tourism early next year, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on Wednesday.
In the first phase of reopening tourism, the ministry expects to welcome visitors from regional countries. In this connection, the ministry needs to make alignment with their reopening plans, travel bubbles or travel corridor schemes, the ministry's Public Relations and Information Department told Xinhua.
"We are making necessary consultation with government agencies and private associations to systematically receive international visitors when airports and borders reopen," an official of the department said.
The country suspended operations of international commercial passenger flights excluding relief flights, medical evacuation and special flights, and the issuance of all types of visas for foreign nationals from all countries were also suspended, following the report of first two COVID-19 positive cases on March 23 last year.
According to a recent release of Information Ministry, land border crossings with Thailand will reopen next month ahead of a resumption of international air travel by the end of first quarter of 2022.
Minister of Information Maung Maung Ohn said in the release, "Once our vaccination program reaches targets and if global infection rates drop, we intend to resume international air travel in the first quarter of 2022."
According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Health, over 10.4 million people have been fully vaccinated while over 4.91 million people have received the first jabs of COVID-19 vaccines as of Nov. 20.
The Hotels and Tourism Ministry launched the health and safety protocol for the tourism-related businesses to render services to visitors in August this year.
The pandemic halted tourism and hospitality industry, forcing some hotels and guesthouses to shut down their businesses.
According to the ministry's figures, 1,228 out of total 2,259 licensed hotels and guesthouses are now running in the accommodation sector, which is one of the hardest-hit areas by the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
The ministry launched the COVID-19 Tourism Relief Plan last year to put the tourism sector back on track.
The relief plan consists of three main phrases which are survival, reopening and re-launching.
"The Hotels and Tourism Ministry has implemented Phase 1 and Phase 2 before the COVID-19 third wave started in our country. Currently, the spreading of COVID-19 has gradually decreased, and we will proceed to the next phase for the recovery of tourism in Myanmar," the public relations and information department official said.
Myanmar received about 100,000 visitors up to September this year, down by 88 percent compared to the same period of last year where the country received about 900,000 visitors due to travel curbs over COVID-19 in the country.
"We are reluctant to say exact number of visitors to visit Myanmar but if the COVID-19 pandemic situation is under control, we will receive certain number of visitors from regional countries and also from Asia and Europe," the official said.