Peace has paved the way for tourism in Kayin (Karen) State, tourism officials said this week.
U Win Kyaw, deputy director of Kayin State’s Department of Hotels and Tourism, said tourist arrivals have increased annually. He attributes the windfall to the signing of the preliminary ceasefire in 2012, after which the number of visitors climbed from 10,000 to 150,000 last year.
“Peace is the reason for the increase. Roads and bridges have been upgraded. They are now open 24 hours a day. Progress in the peace process has led to regional stability as well as better roads and communication,” he told KIC News.
Kayin State welcomed over 40,000 tourists in 2013, followed by 50,000 in 2014. Last year, the number of visitors reached a record 150,000.
Between January and April this year, the state’s Department of Hotels and Tourism has already logged more than 25,000 tourists.
The majority of tourists stick to the temples and caves around Hpa-an township, due to continued travel restrictions within the state. Fewer tourists visit the state during the rainy season.
According to the tourism department, French travellers top the list of foreign visitors, followed by German and Dutch tourists.
Fu Saw Kal, a trustee from Kaw Ka Thawng Cave in Hpa-an, told KIC News that the cave received an average of 30 tourists per day last year. This year, the daily number is closer to 50.
Kayin officials have eyed the state’s tourism potential as a revenue booster, and a way to reenergize areas that have had little economic opportunity. But with much of the state still contaminated with landmines and lacking reliable roads or basic infrastructure, industry experts say the sector still has a long way to go before it can accommodate large-scale tourism. And while the ceasefires have restored a semblance of peace for the most part in Kayin State, sporadic outbreaks of fighting have occurred, and stability is far from guaranteed.
The Karen National Union signed a preliminary bilateral ceasefire in 2012, and was one of the eight signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement in 2015.