The Ministry of Home Affairs have re-opened some restricted areas in Kayah State for tourists to visit starting in January as part of the state’s campaign to attract more tourists.
According to U Lin Zaw Htut, deputy director of Department of Hotels and Tourism in Loikaw, the ministry will reopen seven villages in Demoso township, Hpasawng, Bawlakhe and Mese cities.
The two ethnic Kayan villages Hta Nee La Leh and Pan Pet, and one ethnic Kayaw village, Htaykho in Demoso township in Kayah State, are offering community-based tourism.
“Foreign tourists have until now had to apply for permission at least three days ahead before visiting these places. But now they can freely come and visit without needing to get permission,” U Lin Zaw Htut said last Friday.
Due to safety and security concerns, visitors travelling to Hpasawng, Bawlakhe and Mese townships still need to get prior permission from relevant departments. Loikaw is the only one of the state’s seven townships where the government allows foreign visitors to stay overnight.
“Tourists can stay overnight at the Hpasawng when the 20-room hotel that is under construction is opened for tourists,” he said.
Kayah is also seeking permission to open the border crossing between Mese and Khun Yuam in Mae Hong Son province in Thailand.
Hpasawng, Bawlekhe and Mese townships are located at border crossings and this is the reason authorities lifted restrictions for these areas for tourism development, U Lin Zaw Htut said.
They opened the border gate temporarily on Kayah State Day, on January 15, and 50 caravan tours from Thai side have visited since then, he said.
They will continue to arrive in February and March, with about 100 caravan tours passing through the border as the two countries actively promote friendship, he added.
“Border crossings offer hope for Kayah State’s tourism development as Kayah is a landlocked state. The armed group in Kayah State will sign a ceasefire agreement if the border gate officially opens,” U Lin Zaw Htut said.
According to Loikaw’s Department of Hotels and Tourism, there were 17,000 local visitors and 6400 foreign tourists from January to December 2016. They received over 30,000 local travellers and more than 9000 foreign tourists in 2017.