By Feng Yingqiu
YANGON, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar's Second Vice President U Henry Van Thio recently called for exploring sustainable tourism development plan, stressing the need to create new tourism routes and attractions and to combine innovation with its abundant natural resources to create more choice for tourists.
U Henry Van Thio, who is also Chairman of the Central Committee for the Development of the Natural Tourism Industry, urged for laying down systematic plan for developing the tourism sector.
"Despite the abundance of natural scenery and tourist attractions, the number of visitors to Myanmar still remained below expectation," he said.
While promoting Myanmar to the world as a place of interest, he emphasized the need to provide convenient and safe services and safe food to visitors.
He highlighted the points including the availability of visa-on-arrival, direct international flights and visa-free entry to nationals of targeted countries.
President of Myanmar Tourism Federation U Yan Win suggested that the government supply funds for tourism development, open border entrances and give visa exemption to visitors from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as from China, Japan and South Korea.
According to statistics, more than 2.9 million foreign tourists visited Myanmar in 2016 and as of the end of October 2017, the figure stood at 3.1 million, an year-on-year increase of 20 percent.
Myanmar expects 3.5 million tourist arrivals in 2017.
In accordance with the theme of the world tourist organization of last year, which is "Sustainable Tourism -- a Toll for Development," Myanmar has adopted a policy of sustainable development of tourism.
Myeik Archipelago in southern Tanintharyi region, made up of more than 800 islands, is attractive for eco-tourism, such as hiking, bird watching, diving, trekking and snorkeling.
The visitors also used to enjoy sightseeing trips on luxury motor boats.
However, visitors are banned from touching natural coral reefs and taking the shells of sea snails.
According to the tourism authorities, nine local and foreign companies have been granted to build more hotels on 12 islands of Myeik, expecting 200 more hotel rooms to be added in the current open season.
Meanwhile, Myanmar's Tourism Federation has called for preserving Indawgyi Lake, the country's largest fresh water lake northernmost Kachin state, also a heaven for birds, to promote eco-tourism.
Visitors were exploring the area by boat or on hikes or bikes.
Myanmar is also striving for enlisting Bagan as one of the world's cultural heritages lying in the central part of the country with thousands of religious edifices and pagodas.
Cooperation is being made with intellectuals and technicians for the maintenance of Bagan, which has over 3,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and monuments.