Monthly Archives: February 2014

International, Myanmar tour agencies encouraged to work together

Myanmar’s hotels and tourism deputy minister has invited the international tourism business community to work with local agencies to produce better results.

Speaking at the fifth World Ecotourism Summit in the Philippines, deputy minister of tourism Tin Shwe said that working together would be of mutual benefit for both foreign and local agencies. He added that Myanmar is currently focusing on its coastal ecosystem, the protection of its biodiversity and the maintenance of its mangrove forests.

Local agencies said that Myanmar still has virgin natural habitats to explore in the mountain ranges of Putao and Haka areas in the North, Loikaw area in the East and the islands and coastal areas of the South. Developing new tourism zones in these areas is important because these places will be attractive to tourists, they said.

Statistics show that the number of foreign tourists visiting the country has been gradually increasing over the past two years. Meanwhile, locals are becoming more interested in visiting other countries.

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DICA gives thumbs down to full foreign investment in tourism sector

YANGON—Foreign investors hoping to cash in on Myanmar’s burgeoning tourism sector are in for disappointment if they’re hoping for complete penetration into the market: full foreign investment will not be permitted, and joint ventures will be allowed only with Myanmar citizens, according to the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA).

“At present, the DICA will not give permission to operate with full foreign investment in the tourism sector, and we are going to release an announcement of which industries will or will not be permitted for joint ventures,” said Aung Naing Oo, Director General of the DICA.

“Our department can’t yet give permission to invest in the tourism sector with foreign investment. We will announce the new industries after reviewing the permitted or not permitted enterprises and joint ventures which are granted by the Myanmar Investment Commission.”

Aung Naing Oo added that international firms who want to invest in the tourism sector don’t need to go to the MIC but can register at the Company Registration Office.

“But, we won’t allow permission for fully foreign investment and will grant joint venture permission only to citizens,” he said.

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French tourist guides in high demand

Myanmar has witnessed an increasing number of French tourists visiting the country, leading to a growing demand for more French-speaking tourist guides.

About 160,000 tourists from Western Europe visited Myanmar last year. Among them, French tourists represent the largest number with a record of over 35,000 entering the country. Industry experts have expected the trend to continue this year.

“These days many more French tourists come, compared to the previous year…Some French tourists understand English language a little but French-speaking tourist guides are preferred,” said Zaw Win Cho, chairperson of Myanmar Tourist Guides Association.

There are more than 3000 tourist guides in Myanmar, with 277 of them speaking French, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

On the table of the number of tourists to Myanmar, Thailand stands the top followed by China and Japan.

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Myanmar to provide emergency healthcare for tourists

The Shwe Zanaka Company will provide emergency healthcare services for tourists  in Kyaikto, Mon State on April 1 and will expand to other popular tourist sites in Myanmar.

The company will cooperate with ambulance services, the Ministry of Health and local hospitals for treatment and with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism regarding foreign visitors.

“Now we have opened a clinic in Kyaikto to give emergency healthcare services by cooperating with private doctors,” said Dr Myint Lwin from Shwe Zanaka Company, which will provide the emergency healthcare service.

Thousands of local and foreign tourists visit the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Kyaikto every year, but the town has lacked sufficient hospitals and clinics ato provide emergency healthcare.

“If any emergency arises while visiting the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, we will treat them immediately at the place where it happens. If we can treat the patient at the clinic, we will do it but if the person needs to be admitted to the hospital, we will contact the public hospitals in Mawlamyine and Thaton. We can also transport the patient to the hospital he or she wants to be admitted to,” he added.

Shwe Zanaka Company has contacted social organisations and ambulance services to provide their service. It will also implement tele-medicine system to offer media treatment via the internet or the telephone for the patients who needs medical care while climbing the mountains or are far away from the clinic, according to Dr Myint Lwin.

“At the moment, we have installed C-band satellites in Yangon and Kyaikto in order for us to give instructions for emergency healthcare through the internet. The services are not free but they will be moderate prices. There are also joint cooperation between the government and the private to provide services in other countries,” he added.

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Dawei headed for ecotourism


Tourists enjoying Maungmakan Beach, located near the Dawei Deep-sea Port Project. Photo – Phyo Zin (Dawei)

DAWEI—Tourism firms in Dawei Township are aiming to develop as viable ecotourism businesses in order to protect the ecology of their region.

Since 2012, Dawei has become a tourist destination while also experiencing an influx of business tourists who come to study a mega deep-sea port project there.

The Italian Thai Development’s project here attracted international attention because of its size and strategic location in the Taninthari Region of lower Myanmar.

“Many tourists [to Dawei] are on business. We are headed for ecotourism here because other businesses may damage the ecology. By doing ecotourism, our tourists will reach new places and the environment is also protected,” said Htein Lin from the Dawei Tourism Company.

“I ask the tourists why they visit Dawei. They say Dawei is different from other places. It has green forests and mountains. It is spacious and uncrowded. The weather is not like that of Switzerland and Holland. Our climate is temperate, while it is very cold there,” he added.

In Dawei, besides the deep-sea port project site, tourists usually go to Maungmakan Beach, ancient pagodas and other historical places. There are five hotels with 179 rooms, according to last year’s statistics.

“Tourism businesses in Dawei asked us to offer some training on tourism. Some of our tourism companies in Yangon will go and train them,” said Aye Kyaw, managing director of Ruby Land Tourism Company.

Many of the tourists visiting Dawei Township are Japanese and Thai nationals. There are also some Chinese and European tourists there.

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Inlay Lake sees growing demand for hotel rooms

Many popular destinations still lack enough hotels to accommodate tourists as increasing numbers of visitors visit Myanmar during the high season between November and February.

Inlay region, famous for its scenic lake and surrounding countryside, is one area that still struggles to accommodate growing numbers of visitors.

“Constructions for new hotels are being carried out but requirement of rooms will be enough only this tourism season. We didn’t have many troubles getting enough rooms like previous year but there are still problems,” said Zaw Htay Aung, chairperson of hoteliers association.

The numbers of tourists has consistently doubled each year since 2011 when Myanmar began a series of reforms that saw sanctions lifted after years of military misrule and isolation.

Following a boom in hotel construction, Inlay region currently has 73 hotels, including 2,031 rooms, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

“Even last year, we had difficulty in getting hotel rooms. The previous year, we (tourist guides) had to live in hostels in Naung Shwe and Inntae. In these regions rooms are still in need,” said a German guide as well as a Miss Myanmar International Nan Khin Zaya.

Since 2010, the tourism industry grown in momentum but hotel charges have also sky rocketed. But high prices has not deterred tourists who continue to visit Inlay Lake and surrounding areas.

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Myanmar Airways to expand fleet with General Electric

The state-owned Myanmar Airways plans to expand their fleet and services by leasing ten new Boeing aircraft from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS).

GECAS is part of U.S.-based conglomerate General Electric that signed a lease contract with Myanmar’s national carrier in Singapore on February 11.

“We are pleased that General Electric will work with Myanmar Airways to provide new, state-of-the-art Boeing aircraft. This is an important milestone for the airline and for the development of Myanmar’s aviation industry,” GECAS president and chief executive Norman Liu said in a statement.

The Minister of Transport Nyan Tun Aung and the U.S. Ambassador Derek Mitchell attended a signing ceremony on Tuesday. The contract agrees to the delivery of six Boeing 737-800 and four Boeing 8MAX model planes between June 2015 and 2020.

“To be able to expand our flight services to major destinations in the region, we are very pleased to work with GE Capital Aviation Services. Both the airline and Myanmar economy will be benefit from cooperation with a top U.S. company like the GE,” said Than Tun, managing director of Myanmar Airways.

GECAS has already leased two Embraer E190 aircraft to Myanmar Airways and has reached a memorandum of understanding with the airline to develop a strategic growth plan with a focus on route and network development.

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Gov’t legalises importing new aircraft

Minister for Commerce Win Myint says that the Myanmar government has approved the importing of aircrafts in a meeting held on February 10.

“In our government era, we allow the import of aircraft and helicopter. Whoever can import them. Car import is also allowed. Previously we allowed five heavy machineries per company for import and now they can import them what they like. We don’t restrict them anymore,” Win Myint said.

The importing of aircrafts was illegal during the former military junta. The decision comes at a time when local carriers are beginning to expand their services to accommodate increasing arrivals of tourists.

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Shwedagon Pagoda to charge tourists with kyats instead of U.S. dollars

The Shwedagon Pagoda board of trustees says it will charge tourists with Myanmar currency instead of U.S dollars for the entry fee.

The change from the dollar to the kyat is meant to be convenient for tourists, guides and the board of trustees. When tourists pay entrance fees, they often pay using old or torn dollars that are denied by the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.

When the pagoda board of trustees put the cash into the MFTB, the Bank suggested that accepting entrance fees in Myanmar currency would be better. And so, the entrance fees are to be collected as kyat.

At present, the entrance fee for tourists is US$ 8. As of April 1, Ks 8,000 will be collected. (Previously, the tourist entrance fee was US$ 5; it was raised to US$ 8 before the end of 2013.

On average, more than 1,000 tourists per day visit Shwedagon Pagoda.

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Tourism benefiting from free independent travelers market

The number of free independent travelers (FITs) visiting Myanmar has been increasing with the development of the tourism industry, as about 300,000 FITs visited last year.

Although the number of FITs has been increasing while the number of package tours has been declining, the number of tour companies continues to increase year by year. The Ministry of Hotels and Information has awarded 1,350 licences to new tour companies last year.

The Union of Myanmar Travel Association’s vice chair Thet Lwin Toe said the tourism industry needs to be expanded to offer more services for FITs instead of trying to provide the same services as other tour companies.

“I have been saying this for a while now. Try to make the ‘pancake’ bigger. If you can’t expand your market, you’ll lose. You can’t just sell mohinga because others are selling it. They need to cooperate and discuss with each other to expand the market,” said Thet Lwin Toe.

“It is true that Myanmar is good for travelling and the number of tourists has been increasing. However, the real profit is gained by the owners of small hotels and car rental companies that interact directly with the FITs.”

He called for cooperation between local tour companies to discuss how to expand the market.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism says that FIT arrival numbers nearly double those for travelers arriving with package tours. Statistics show that tourist arrivals for package tours have increased from 66,552 to 148,557 while FITs have increased from 79,074 to 294,218 within the past four years.

“This [package tour arrival] will continue to decrease. FITs take up 60 percent while package tours take up only 30 percent. Most Spanish and Asian tourists travel with package tours. Not only poor people travel as FITs. People from rich countries also travel as FITs. Now, there are a lot of FITs in the American market,” said Thet Lwin Toe.

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