Trying to lure MICE to Myanmar Capital, Nay Pyi Daw

Nay Pyi Daw excellent but empty network of highways

Nay Pyi Daw has now been for over a decade the new capital city of Myanmar. Although the city benefited of generous investments from the former military government and has the best infrastructure so far in the country, the city is one of the least visited place in the country- except for travellers dealing with Myanmar ministries.

In 2015, 1.2 million travellers arrived via Yangon, compared to just 13,800 in the capital, according to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

The hosting of the ASEAN Travel Forum in 2015 was seen as the opportunity to show the world that the capital was slowly -but surely- becoming an attractive destination. Although organisation, hotels and the convention venue worked pretty well, the capital failed to impress the thousand of ATF delegates. The capital looked rather empty, there was no life to be seen in the street of the city supposedly populated with a million inhabitants…

A new government has since taken over from military but the problem about Nay Pyi Daw image remains. A recent report from the Myanmar Times told that the current government recently announced a series of initiatives to help draw tourists to the capital, especially to lure foreign travellers to organize MICE events and conferences.

At a press conference in the capital on September 28,  U Tint Thwin, director general at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, explained that Nay Pyi Taw had a lot to offer, reported the Myanmar Times. A marketing team will be set up to boost efforts to promote the capital as a location for MICE. “International tourists can come to attend a meeting and then they can visit the rest of Myanmar,” said U Tint Thwin. Lcoal tours to some of the facilities such as the parliament are now possible since the government of Aung Saan Suu Kyi took over power.

They are some advantages to come to Nay Pyi Daw. The city has a high number of hotels including luxury accommodation such as Hilton, Kempinski and Parkroyal. Most are underused and offer excellent deals compared to their counterparts in Mandalay or Yangon.

Speaking at last week’s press event, Daw Khin San Win, deputy director general from the directorate of Hotels and Tourism, told the good news : “Now hotels are reducing their room prices competitively, without needing to be urged by us,” she said, adding that the average price of rooms had dropped by about 20 percent. There are more than 50 hotels with over 5000 rooms, she said.

But more than just hotels and good roads, Nay Pyi Daw should now work to bring life to the town. As soon as offices close, the city gets empty as residential areas are segregated from the hotel zone and the shopping zone. Some restaurants are opened at night but nothing to feel excited about. There was a deliberated position from the government before to have no schools or universities in the hotels or administration zones to avoid confrontation or demonstrations. To the price of a dead-looking city.

It will certainly take time now to bring life to the capital. But this is possible. Shows, late-opening shops, a cultural centre with weekly events could make the city worth visiting for two or three days. And best, is promoting the fact that many historical sightseeing are available 15 minutes away from town. They are old temples, ancient cities, villages with traditional communities living. And if this is not enough, Mandalay is two hours and  a half away by highway from the capital…