Monthly Archives: December 2013

Accor to open six new hotels in Myanmar

YANGON—Accor, one of the leading international hotel operators in Asia-Pacific, will open six new hotels in Yangon over the next three years, according to its chairman and chief executive officer Sebastien Bazin.

“We believe Accor has a role to play as a responsible investor in Myanmar, providing employment opportunities, building capacity and giving back to the community,” said Bazin.

Michael Issenberg, Accor’s chief operating officer for the Asia-Pacific region, said that Southeast Asia has long been a market focus for them. As Myanmar’s tourism industry develops, he added, the company sees significant growth potential for international hotel operators with long-term experience in the region.

“Our approach to development in Myanmar will be very much people-focused –providing employment opportunities and working with communities to ensure mutually-beneficial and sustainable development,” Issenberg said during the recent Women’s Forum 2013.

“We expect to hire over 1,500 people in Myanmar over the next few years and women will play a big role. We strongly believe that women in business are a vector of positive change and progress in society.”

Bazin also mentioned that Accor employs 80,000 women worldwide, including more than 28,000 in the Asia Pacific region.

“We believe in inclusion and diversity, not only for women to prosper in their careers, but also for the success of the business as a whole. Today, 27 percent of our hotel general managers worldwide are women and by 2015, we aim to increase this to 35 percent, with a long-term goal of parity,” he said.

Earlier this month, Accor signed with Myat Min Company, a local hotel operator, to manage three more hotels in Myanmar. The three new properties, now under construction, will be Pullman Yangon Myat Min, Sebel Yangon Myat Min and Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min.

The 300-room Pullman Yangon Myat Min is expected to be completed in 2015, making it the first Pullman hotel in Myanmar. The 100-room Sebel Yangon Myat Min will be a premium serviced apartment hotel for guests looking for long-stay accommodation, while the 121-room Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, located on the banks of Inle Lake, will open in 2014.

In February this year, Accor announced the development of three newly built hotels in Myanmar – the MGallery hotel in Naypyidaw, the Novotel Yangon Max, and the Novotel Mandalay Mingalar – representing the group’s 18th market in the region.

“As the first major international hotel operator to sign hotel projects in the country, we look forward to being a part of the development of Myanmar’s tourism infrastructure,” said Robert Murray, Accor’s chief operating officer for Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Accor has a presence in 92 countries with nearly 3,500 hotels and 440,000 rooms. Accor’s broad portfolio of hotel brands includes Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, and Novotel. It aims to operate 700 hotels in Asia-Pacific by 2015.

The group is committed to participating in Myanmar’s transformation by providing employment opportunities, helping women to empower themselves and giving back to the community through the Accor Foundation. The Foundation has supported more than 180 projects worldwide since its creation in 2008, according to the Accor website.

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Myanmar close to reaching tourist target for 2013-14

The number of foreign tourists who have visited Myanmar this fiscal year has reached 1.9 million, closing in on the country’s target of two million for 2013-14, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

With 1.9 million foreign tourists entering the country through several gateways by December 25, the two-million mark is quite possible as four months still remain before the fiscal year’s end, said Tint Tun Aung, a director from the ministry.

“The figure is high enough for the expectation to be reached. We are also making preparations to welcome three million visitors in the next fiscal year,” he said.

Most foreign tourists were from Asia, but the number of tourists from Europe and the U.S is also on the rise, according to the ministry.

Yangon and Bagan top the list for the most visited places in the country, and foreign tourist arrivals in Mandalay, Inle, Kyaikhteeyoe and Ngapali Beach have also been increasing these days, said the ministry.

The country’s tourism sector has seen a growth rate of 83 percent over the last four years, receiving foreign investment in the sector, a recent survey by the ministry showed.

The government is also planning to undergo a seven-year tourism project with US$ 500 million (Ks 494 billion) in aid, which will be provided by the Asian Development Bank and Norway. Italy has also offered to help develop Myanmar’s tourism sector.

The ministry also said it would arrange better transportation services in the future for tourists to gain easy and comfortable access to popular tourist destinations such as Putao, Myeik, Narga, Natmauk Taung, Loikaw, Chaungthar and Ngwesaung beaches as well as Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle, Kyaikhteeyoe, and Ngapali, which are the most popular.

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Exim Bank of Korea to enter Myanmar

YANGON—Myanmar has allowed the Export-Import Bank of Korea to open a representative office in Yangon, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

The bank registered at the DICA on December 18 to open its office.

Established in 1976, the bank has supported South Korea’s export-led economy by providing loans, financing mega-projects, and facilitating economic cooperation with other countries.

Foreign banks from several countries have already opened representative offices in the country. To name a few, Malayan Banking Berhad (MAY Bank), China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank, and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam have all opened offices here.

Official figures show that most foreign banks that have entered Myanmar are from Asian countries. According to the Central Bank of Myanmar, foreign banks are not allowed to open any branches in the country yet.

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From Kyaiktiyo to the “Rope Wizard” at Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda


Min Min sliding along a rope from Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda to the ground. (Photo – Win Myint Kyaw/EMG)

While Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, or the Golden Rock, is always packed with pilgrims and tourists, the pagoda’s surrounding hills including Crow’s Mouth Cave, Hunter Hill, Yathae Hill, Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda and the waterfall, are no less crowded with visitors.

Located two and a half miles north of Kyaiktiyo Hill, Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda has received a lot of attention from visitors due to the ‘Rope Wizard’, who risks his life by ‘flying’ 60 feet above the ground from a cane rope to gild the pagoda with gold leaves on behalf of the pilgrims.

Aye Lwin began this practice in 1989 and his son Min Min has since taken over his job.

“I have been doing this for four years now. My father retired at the age of 72,” said Min Min.

“I have to control many things in order to gild the pagoda with gold leaves. I only eat vegetables. I always pray to the Nine Attributes of the Buddha. When I was young, I learned how to climb the rope by watching my father. I still haven’t faced any difficulties yet. The main reason I risk my life is for Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda to look sublime with gold leaves and for the people to have merit.”

As Min Min has to lie flat while travelling on the rope, thick cloths have been sewn to his shirt to prevent chafing, rashes, or abrasions on his chest.

Pilgrims make various kinds of donations while visiting Kyaiktiyo Pagoda and its surroundings. But there are some who take advantage of pilgrims by forcing them to worship at a shrine and then demanding donations from them.

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The platform of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda seen in December. (Photo – Win Myint Kyaw/EMG)

“You have to submit for permission to the authorities if you want to do anything at Kyaiktiyo and the surrounding hills. The people who ask for donations along the road are doing them after getting contracts from the authorities,” said an old lady selling soft drinks along the road to Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda.

School-age children were also seen begging along the road, instead of attending school. This is very worrisome for their future, locals say.

“I want my children to attend school and become educated. But, I cannot make this a first priority as we barely have enough to eat. So, we have to do this in order to have better livelihoods during this pilgrimage season,” said Aung Naing, a father of three.

Families who live in the surrounding hills of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda make their living by doing hillside cultivation, cutting firewood, and selling it to restaurants.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda has been packed with visitors this pilgrimage season and many have struggled to find accommodation.

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Myanmar Airways to provide sightseeing flights over Mandalay


A Launching ceremony of 12-seaters planes seen in Mandalay Chan Mya Tharzi Airport (Photo-EMG)

Myanmar Airways (MA) will put to use its newly purchased 12-seater Grand Caravan Ex planes to provide sightseeing flights over Mandaly. 

The flights will last 15 minutes and will run two times a week. MA will charge Ks 16,000 Ks for each passenger.

“The ticket price is affordable for everyone and we hope that many will be interested to take part. The flight has only just been announced and so most have not noticed the news. We will have customers within two days,” said Htin Lin, senior pilot for MA.

Many local residents in Mandalay, especially photographers, have voiced an interest in witnessing their city from the skies.

“We are interested the tour and the ticket prices are acceptable. Members of Myanmar Photography Association and amateur photographers spent the same amount just to take photos in places near Mandalay. We welcome the plan because we want to see the aerial view of Mandalay,” said the professional photographer Ko Htike.

The small planes are capable of landing and taking off from short airstrips in remote areas and border regions. Now MA is planning to land at Kant Kaw, Kutkai, Tanai, Naung Mon, Lone Khin, Manaung and Mrauk-U.

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Tourist arrivals soar at Yangon International Airport

Yangon International Airport has seen a dramatic increase in international arrivals from 1.6 million tourists in 2009 to 3.08 million tourists in 2012, according to statics from the Myanmar’s Aviation Department.

Yangon International Airport can handle 2.7 million tourists annually and upgrading work for the airport is already underway to accommodate more visitors.

The airport is expected to handle 6 million tourists annually after upgrades are completed but tourist arrivals experts say that this will not suffice if the current rate of arrivals continues to rise.

Myanmar is also planning to build a new international airport in Hantharwady which is expected to start operations in 2017, according to Tin Naing Tun, director of the Aviation Department.

“The Hantharwady International Airport will be built next year and the project is expected to finish in 2017. It is the first priority for our ministry. It will be a big affect for the country and in the region,” Transport Minister Nyan Tun said.

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Thirty domestic airports to be privatised

Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has recently released a list of 30 domestic airports due to be privatised.

The department said that priority will be given to companies which rate able to operate the whole airport. Opportunities are also available for companies wishing to operate under join partnerships.

“We will soon invite tender to choose private companies for the airport privatisation. We will choose a private company which is financially and technically strong enough to run an airport,” said Tin Naing Tun, the director general from the DCA.

Some of the airports listed include: Bagan, Nyaung Oo, Heho, Dawei, Putao, Mongsat, Kawthaung, Myitkyina, Pathein, Myeik, Bahmo, Lashio, Bopyin, Kalay, Magwe, Mawlamyaing, Khandi, Pakoukku, Hpa-an, Homalin, Kyaukhtu, Ange Sakan, Loikaw, Ann, Ko Ko Island, Monywa, Sittwe, Thadwe, Tarchilek, Kyaing Tong and Kyaukphyu.

A selected company will not be able to upgrade a domestic airport to an international one. The department also said it will not allow a 100% foreign investment to run an airport, and the company must follow a respective investment for the business.

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Yangon Stock Exchange to open in two years – Deputy Minister

The Yangon Stock Exchange (YSE) will open in two years based in the former headquarters of Myawaddy Bank in Yangon, according to the deputy minister for finance.

“We went there to see the location along with Japanese investors. Ground floor and first floor will be rented for the exchange,” said Deputy Minister Maung Maung Thein.

The Yangon Stock Exchange will be part of the capital market which will open in two years, he added. A committee has been formed to create the exchange and capital market which is expected to coincide with the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

“Technical preparations are under way for the exchange to be opened before the AEC. The committee has to teach local companies to have transparency,” he said.

Currently, Myanmar has more than 100 public companies, among them only a few are qualified for listing on the exchange, according to the deputy minister.

A joint venture with Japan’s Daiwa Company will be formed soon for the exchange which will have initial capital of Ks 32 billion.

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MIC grants a hotel project in Dawei

DAWEI—The Star Sapphire Hotel Company has been allowed to carry out a hotel project on a land plot in Dawei owned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, sources from the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) say.

MIC granted the project at a meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw on November 26. The company will implement the hotel project on a 3.9-acre plot of land using a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) system.

Meanwhile in Yangon, local company Max Myanmar Group is carrying out a Novotel Hotel project on 3.3 acres of land in Kamaryut Township. Another locally owned company, Taw Win Family Construction, is implementing the four-star Taw Win Garden Hotel project in Dagon Township. The Shwe Taung Development Company is preparing to launch office buildings, plus an international standard hotel, using the BOT system in Yangon Region. Other local companies have been approved for development by the Myanmar Citizen Investment Law in Yangon and Mandalay regions.

Local investment in the hotel and tourism industry reached more than Ks 433 billion by the end of October this year.

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