No Boost for Tourism Following Democracy Restoration in Myanmar

The rather peaceful election of last November in Myanmar has so far failed to attract more tourists despite the positive image gained from the restoration of democracy in the country. Tourist professionals in Myanmar put the blame to expensive prices and deficient infrastructure to tourists’ disaffection since last year. According to the Myanmar Times, Myanmar difficulties of becoming an attractive destination can be summarized in three expressions: high prices, poor infrastructure and inadequate human resources.

U Aung Myat Kyaw, former chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association and central committee member of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, said to the newspaper that hopes of a “democracy boost” to the industry are now fading. Tour numbers are down in most of the country including to Bagan while hotels along Ngapali’s sandy beaches are experiencing a downturn in total arrivals with occupancy lower by 10% compared to 2015. And domestic tourism-although up- does not compensate for losses occurring from international markets.

U Aung Myat Kyaw put the blame particularly on very high prices which make Myanmar one of the most expensive places to visit in ASEAN. Another problem is also the difficulty to book online and the bad quality of service in many hotels. “Foreign travel companies are directing tourists to cheaper and more convenient countries like Thailand and Vietnam. We need to do better marketing,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, the country had 1279 hotels and 49,946 rooms available as of the end of December. But many remain empty as prices are sometimes double as expensive as in properties with similar ranking in Vietnam or Thailand.

Myanmar tourism professionals hope now that the new government- which will be designated this March- will make tourism a priority. Professionals from the tourism industry hope that the government will extend the system of visa-on-arrival to more countries and clearly show that tourism has absolute priority in Myanmar national economic development.

Daw Hlaing Hlaing Win, general manager of the Amazing Hotels & Resorts group, said occupancy had fallen despite the availability of wider choice and price discounts. “We cut room prices by at least 10pc. But in Ngapali, Inle and Bagan tourist numbers are down despite an increase in domestic visitors in Ngapali,” she said.