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Myanmar tourism expects to boost in 2015

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More emerging tourism sites including Putao, the Myeik Archipelago, Nagaland, Nat Ma Taung and Loikaw are added to the current hottest destinations like Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda, Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaikhto, Mandalay and Ngapali Beach, turning Myanmar into the world’s most attractive land for global travellers. Authorities set the 5 million of tourists as the target this year.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake

The number of tourists to Myanmar is increasing. Considerably, the country welcomed some 3 million visitors in 2014, which is beyond the beyond the figures highlighted in the Myanmar Tourism Master Plan (2013-2020). The master plan conservatively aimed for 1.52 million international visitors in 2015 and 2.81 million in 2020. On the high side, it targeted 3.09 million in 2015 and 7.48 million in 2020.

Recent figures encouraged the authorities that the anticipated annual tourism receipts would certainly reach US$10 billion in 2020.

"We believe that 2014 was a start of enormous growth, and 2015 is a year to accelerate momentum," said Naung Naung Han, general secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association and managing director of Radiant Tours Co Ltd. He added: "Competition among hotels is so intense that they may reduce their hotel fees to attract more customers. At the same time, we now have more airlines, including budget airlines, and existing airlines are also expanding new routes as well as the number of aircraft. For example, in the past, there were about 5-6 flights from Yangon to Bangkok per day. Now, there are about 12-14 flights flying the same route daily. As long as international connectivity improves, the industry outlook will surely be brighter."

Hla Aye, managing director of Shan Yoma Travel & Tours Co Ltd, shared the optimism: "I am sure we will receive more tourists next year and in the years to come. But as I said before, the trend has changed. I guess Myanmar will receive more FITs (flexible independent travellers) and single visitors thanks to the wider international connection and wide-spread information."

"We have learned that about 60-70 per cent of the tourists we received are FITs, and the rest were on package tours. But FITs also included business travellers," said NaungNaung Han.


The Myanmar Tourism Master Plan set a complete plan to support infrastructure. 38 projects costing of US$486.6 million will be implemented over the years.

The E-visa system, which was introduced at Yangon International Airport on September 1, 2014, is part of these projects. The system now offers services to tourists from 67 countries, giving them more convenience for their administrative procedures. As of December 1, more than 17,000 foreign visitors entered Myanmar using the e-visa system via Yangon International Airport. The success is encouraging authorities to expand the service to airports in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.

In an effort to boost tourism in the region, Myanmar has proposed other Asean countries to exempt visa requirements for its nationals as well as other Asean residents.

Aside Yangon International Airport's expansion, a new international airport in Hantharwady, Bago Region which is about 80 kilometers from Yangon is expected to operate in 2017.

In terms of roadways, the Yangon-Nay Pyi Taw-Mandalay Highway with 36 miles length and 25 feet width is in the process of being paved in the 2014- 2015 phase.

On December 26, the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) also gave the green-light to a joint-venture called Sky Asia Co Ltd to build a cable car system that links Yathaedaung Camp to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda – one of the country's most famous destinations.

Hotel investment

According to Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, there are 1,076 hotels throughout Myanmar, and two thirds of them are in Yangon, Mandalay and Shan State as of October 2014.

In December, 31 foreign investment hotels were permitted to open in six regions, including Bagan and Mandalay. Twenty hotels with a total of 3,047 rooms were allowed to open in Yangon, four hotels with 660 rooms in Mandalay and one with 127 rooms in Bagan. Two foreign investment hotels with 252 rooms will open in Kawthaung, three with 291 rooms in Tachileik and one with 41 rooms in Myeik. In Inle Lake, the luxury Sanctum Inle Resort managed by the Apple Tree Group – Hospitality Division, set to open its door in the first quarter of 2015, is going to contribute 96 posh rooms and suites to the region's accommodation. International hotel chains like Accor are opening more and more hotels in popular destinations.

It is expected the hotel room rates drop in the years to come thanks to the involvement of the Tourism Development Bank which will provide financial assistance to local hotels and tour companies.

New destinations

Though it is difficult to market new destinations as to the most famous destinations will always appeal to first-time visitors, it’s worth doing it to attract return travelers.

"We definitely need to implement new destinations to attract more tourists," Naung Naung Han said. "Yet, we should not neglect the existing destinations, as they are our main tourist attractions. We need to take care of them and maintain them well."

"However, repeat visitors may want to try new destinations. We need new products for old customers, and both old and new products are needed for new customers."

"We expect more FITs in the years to come. So we need to implement new destinations to attract more tourists," said Hla Aye of Shan Yoma Travel.

"But we should not look at the tourist arrival only. We also need to increase our capacity. We need more hotel rooms, skilled tour guides and talented staff in the industry. We need to focus on human resources and servicing. Otherwise, we will receive a lot of complaints rather than compliments. For now, we face a lot of complaints from our customers about expensive hotel fees and unsatisfactory services. We should not look at the potential only. We need to increase our capacity to meet the demand and maintain our bright outlook," he said.

He added that more visitors are promised if all airlines reduce their ticket prices.

"At the same time, travelling by car has become more convenient than ever before as many roads have been repaired and upgraded. And regardless of the financial condition, if one is poor or rich, he may choose to travel by car if he plans a long stay in Myanmar. The number of airlines and flight frequencies has significantly increased with the entry of budget airlines such as AirAsia and Nok Air. And direct flights to Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw make travelling more convenient for FITs."

Hla Aye also noted that tour companies are seriously taking eco-tourism into consideration.

"Some of the visitors have particular interests, like trekking and bird-watching. We should create new areas for eco-tourism for them."

To Naung Naung Han, the outlook for the industry is bright.

"If we continue in the same direction, I do believe that we will meet the target of receiving more than 10 million tourists by 2020. International interest in Myanmar is surging, and the government is trying to increase capacity on the supply side. This will curb prices so more tourists can visit our country."

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