The South-east Asia Special: Myanmar

This emerging nation holds enormous opportunities for the MICE sector, and is playing all the right cards to garner interest.

A fisherman on Inle Lake

Incentive travel traditionally dominates Myanmar’s MICE landscape, but industry players say its meeting and conference draw is growing.

Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, said: “Ten years ago, the focus was on incentives and offering real, amazing and unique experiences rather than having meetings or conferences.”

A fisherman on Inle Lake

He added the lack of basic infrastructure, such as Internet, reliable electricity and visa on arrival, and few facilities to host conferences and meetings meant this sector remained undeveloped.

But May Myat Mon Win, general manager of Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon, opined that recent years have seen the country’s meetings and conference landscape develop as more upscale hotels, attractions, activities join the scene. This includes the opening of several convention centres in Yangon and Mandalay.

However, Zarni Htwe, managing director of Adventure Myanmar Tours & Incentives, said that despite growth in the MICE market, a major challenge is competing with regional countries.

Zarni added: “Nowadays, the destination is well-known but due to the competitive environment, not only among local DMCs but also among destinations, it is more and more difficult to get business.”

The quality of events in recent years is another development in the market, noted Cyrus Pun, CEO of Memories Group. He said: “We have seen a significant increase in business activity in Myanmar, and this has led to rapid development in the MICE industry. This growth can be seen in the number, size and sophistication of events and much higher-level curated options now available.”

But due to infrastructure challenges, bigger groups remain limited to Yangon, while Pun noted that smaller parties can “easily venture to lesser-travelled areas of the country in search of a unique experience.”

Factors pushing the destination’s business travel landscape include the entry of five-star hotels with large meetings rooms and ballrooms, better flight connections, the introduction of an e-visa, and cheap and reliable mobile Internet.

Looking ahead, industry players believe the destination holds great potential, although infrastructure in Yangon and Mandalay has to be further improved, with Bagan’s potential – as a conference and sightseeing destination – be better developed.

Opined Pun: “I expect we will see more interest in MICE from abroad, as well as further development of the domestic MICE market.”

“Myanmar is a late-comer and we have the late-comer’s advantage. This is the place of transformation, which should produce more results in coming years. The future is bright and MICE market can only (continue to grow),” added Win.

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