Will Myanmar surpass the Philippines in the number of tourist arrivals in 2016? The incredible growth of Myanmar over the last decade up by almost 500%, jumping from less than 0.8 million in 2010 to 4.68 million international arrivals last year. During the same period of time, the Philippines, today one of the fastest growing tourist destination in ASEAN, grew from 3.52 million in 2010 to 5.36 million last year, a growth over the period of 53%…
Myanmar achievement is remarkable although it represents a real challenge for a country which was totally isolated during four decades. Myanmar is still trying to close the gap in tourism by balancing increasing flows of visitors, protection of tourism sites, sustainable development and managing human resources. “We are aware of the challenge faced by our country in tourism management. This is why we had this Myanmar Tourism Masterplan released in 2013 with the help of Norway to assess the best ways to grow our tourism in the most possible sustainable way”, explained Thwin Tint, General Director at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism during the recent ASEAN Travel Forum in Manila.
Capacity constraint and a lack of infrastructure have been two major hurdles to Myanmar tourism development until today. Hotel capacity starts to be resolved. “We now have 1,267 hotels, up by over 10% compared to 2014. They offer almost 50,000 rooms, up by 14% to last year. Yangon alone has now close to 15,000 rooms, which translates into a decrease in average hotel prices”, indicated Aye Kyi Kyi, former Director General at the Ministry and now consultant for the Myanmar Tourism Federation.
While Yangon or Mandalay seem to manage better their flows of tourists these days, they are concern about the pressure put by tourist arrivals in other top tourism destinations such as Bagan or Inlay Lake. “We continue to promote new destinations to not only relieve some of the most crowded tourist spots but also to spread tourism benefits to other communities in the country”, told Aye Kyi Kyi.
Among the spotted areas to be strong tourism destinations in the near future is the Andaman Sea, near to Thailand border and the Province of Kanchanaburi. We are also looking to promote Putao Mountain, which is Southeast Asia only snow-capped summit”, added Kyi Kyi.
A Heritage Trail has been for example launched mostly in the Shan State. Taking travellers from Tachileik to yangon, it highlights less exposed destinations such as small villages and cities. Another initiative is Cave Tourism which links together nature and religious tourism as many caves serve as buddhist sanctuaries. Regions spotted for cave tourism are East of Bago/Yangon around the town of Hpa-An and in Taunggyi in Shan State. With the help of the ADB, women micro enterprises in tourism are being fostered in Kayin and Mon States: another tourism master plan has also been launched to turn Kayah State into a new tourism destination. The masterplan will last for three years and identify destinations while creating a marketing brand for the region.
A lot will depend from the new government which should take over Myanmar destiny from February, following last year election. “We do not know who is currently spotted to be the next Minister of Tourism. But we are confident that he or she will be fully aware of the necessity to strengthen the tourism industry as a major economic sector beneficial to our communities”, told Thwin Tint in conclusion.