• Myanmar gets serious

    Myanmar gets serious

    Category: Country report
    Issues: November 2012

    Shwedagon Pagoda, in Myanmar
    Picture by Andrea Cuccureddu

    Tourism authorities are ordering prominent trade show presence and improved infrastructure, writes Rahul Khanna
    Myanmar tourism officials have unveiled plans to develop the country’s tourism industry in anticipation of a surge in inbound tourists when the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and ASEAN meetings swing in next year.

    During a keynote presentation at the Lao National Institute of Tourism & Hospitality Quarterly Symposium in Vientiane last month, Kyi Thein Ko, head of secretary, Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF), said Myanmar had engaged a branding firm to promote its tourism products, while MTF would maintain a presence at major regional and international travel tradeshows.

    Marketing efforts will focus on history, culture, temples, nature, architecture and Buddhism in the country’s four main destinations – Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake.

    Development of international air hubs, more expressways and overland routes to neighbouring countries are also on the drawing block, as Myanmar prepares for the SEA Games and ASEAN meetings in 2013.

    Kyi Kyi Aye, MTF senior tourism advisor, said: “We have some 800 (ASEAN) meetings scheduled and we aim to be a MICE destination by 2014 before hosting the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2015.”

    But a shortage in quality mid-range and high-end accommodation is casting dark shadows over the country’s tourism ambitions. Kyi Kyi Aye noted that only 35 hotels with 6,560 rooms were geared for business travellers.
    For now, upgrading works are taking place across several local hotels, and a friendlier environment for foreign investment has resulted in some US$1.15 billion being set aside for new hotels that will add 1,415 rooms to the local inventory, according to Kyi Kyi Aye.

    There are rosier news still from the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism: 1,670 new rooms from mid-range and high-end hotels will be made available in Yangon in 2013, while 1,255 and 2,455 rooms will come online in the same city in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

    Examples of new hotel projects, according to Aung Zaw Win, director general of the ministry’s Directorate of Hotels & Tourism, include the 270-key Centrepoint Towers Hotel in Yangon, and the 100-room Nawarat Hotel in Hlaing Township, both of which will open around April 2013.

    Shangri-La Group’s project near Kandawgyi Lake will yield a 240-unit serviced apartment in 2013 and another 450 rooms in 2015. Rose Garden Hotel Yangon will also open progressively – first with 60 rooms next year, followed by 255 rooms in 2014.

    Vietnam’s Lac Hong Voyages business development director, Robert Tan, told TTGmice that there had been “a lot of interest” in Myanmar, especially as a destination twinned with Vietnam.

    “The only obstacle is the lack of hotels that are suited for business travellers, and this is a problem that will not be resolved right away, as hotels take time to build,” he said, adding that Myanmar’s acute shortage of quality rooms
    would mean that hotel rates would remain high despite the future influx of new rooms.
    – Additional reporting by Karen Yue