Monthly Archives: November 2014

Book early to attend ATF

Golden Myanmar Airlines   will add flights between Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw to meet increased demand on the domestic route during the ASEAN Tourism Forum, January 2015.

Delegates are advised to book flights early as there are limited route options. Bangkok Airways is the only airline serving Nai Pyi Taw out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport gateway. There are similar limitation in other gateway cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which will force delegates to fly via Yangon to connect with domestic airlines that are charging one-way fares of between USD65 to USD105 depending on the flights.

Golden Myanmar Airlines is cited as a supporting airline, but it lacks a full-fledged international booking system and distribution outside of Myanmar. It has a very limited network in ASEAN serving just Singapore and Bangkok.

  It flies twice daily between Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw with a third flight scheduled on Saturday and Sundays at a much higher fare of USD105 one-way.

Ideally, overseas delegates prefer to fly direct to the travel show’s host city without having to connect from international to domestic services with all the associated hassles of transferring baggage.

Golden Myanmar Airlines has no code-share or interline agreements that would allow check through of bags to the final destination.

None of these challenges are mentioned in the latest promotions issued by the Singapore-based show organiser, except a reference to “delegates will enjoy special fares on GMA.”

GMA also offers international flights between Singapore and Yangon and Bangkok and Yangon, but flights are packed with tour groups and fares are increasing as the peak season kicks in with record bookings for Myanmar.

Unlike other destinations that host the ASEAN Tourism Forum, most foreign visitors still require a visa to enter Myanmar. There is an electronic visa for a list of privilege countries, but the waiting period between the online application and confirmation by email that the visa has been approved is around seven days. Visas can be paid for by credit card.

Delegates who need a supporting letter to apply for a visa, need to notify the secretariat by 15 December. The show organiser says it could take two weeks to secure the correct visa to attend the show.

Most visitors to the show will apply for a tourist visa at the nearest embassy. It takes about three days to process in Bangkok or the consulate in Chiang Mai.

Nay Pyi Taw has a range of hotels that can cater to delegates, but the show organiser is omitting to tell would-be delegates that all of the best hotels in prime locations are booked out with government officials from the 10 member nations who are attending five days of meetings almost at the same time as the trade show.

Golden Myanmar Airlines ATF schedule and fares.

Source : TTR Weekly

Big brother warns MAI on Taiwan plans

Myanmar Airways International plan to operate a new service to Taipei, but the airline’s chairperson claims its efforts have been blocked by the Chinese government.

Eleven Myanmar channel news quoted MAI chairperson, Tin Muang Htun, as saying that the plan to fly to Taipei stalled because the Chinese government would not agree to the move.

This could not be independently substantiated. Relations between China and Taiwan have warmed in recent years with airlines flying hundreds of flights weekly between mainland China and Taiwan.

The chairperson added: “Thai Airways International and Malaysia Airlines are stronger than we are. We are just beginners. We haven’t received any support from our government, and we also face other political and economic problems.”

“Currently, although we want to, we can’t fly to Taipei, where there is huge potential to sell travel to Myanmar. To fly to Taipei, approval from the Government of China is needed, and we cannot get it.”

His comments suggested that China has a say in which airlines can file for rights to serve Taiwan, but permission to fly would normally be in the jurisdiction of the Taiwanese civil aviation authorities.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration, Ministry of Transportation and Communication (CAA) is a government agency of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of the Republic of China which is responsible for the regulation of all civil aviation activities in Taiwan.

However, the airline chairperson may have been hinting at behind the scenes pressure from mainland China rather than an outright refusal by China to support the airline’s decision to fly to Taiwan.

MAI currently offers direct flights to South Korea, Japan, Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore and Gaya.

Source : TTR Weekly

Accor’s Novotel debuts in Myanmar

Accor Asia Pacific has announced the opening of Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, the first Novotel hotel in Myanmar.

Located on the east bank of Inle Lake, this newly-built resort hotel fills a gap in accommodation at the lake by offering an internationally managed four star branded property.

Accor chief operating officer for Accor Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines, Patrick Basset said: “We are proud to introduce the first Novotel  at Inle Lake. This hotel will redefine the concept of Novotel’s resort hotels and showcase the brand’s renowned quality and we aim to entice more discerning travellers to visit this beautiful natural attraction.”

Novotel Inle Lake features 122 rooms, of which 120 are junior suites and lake villas, with two presidential villas.

The resort also offers a wide range of F&B venues including the Sunset Restaurant that offers a la carte menu with a walk-in wine cellar and overlooks the lake.

Inle Lake is the country’s second largest freshwater lake located in the Nyaungshwe Township in Shan State.

Source : TTR Weekly

Myanmar names airport developer

A Japanese-Singaporean joint venture has won the contract to build the USD1.5 billion Hanthawaddy International Airport located north of Yangon.

The Irrawaddy news channel reported that the bid winner — a consortium comprised of Singaporean firms Yongnam Holdings Ltd. and Changi Airport Planners and Engineers (CAPE), as well as Japan’s JGC Corporation — was announced at a press conference held at the Aerospace Engineering University in Yangon last week.

The contract for the airport was put out to tender in February 2013 for the first time, but was re-opened for tender a year later after the government was unhappy with the terms proposed by the initial tender winner.

Incheon Airport Consortium, a South Korean conglomerate, won the first tender in August 2013, but negotiations on lending terms for the project broke down and the government rescinded on the contract.

Incheon had estimated the value of the project at more than USD1.5 billion, and said it would apply for a loan of more than USD1 billion, nearly 70% of the project’s value, with an interest rate of more than 7%. The Korean consortium planned to implement the project on condition that the government agreed to put up collateral on behalf of Incheon to guarantee the loan.

Yongnam-CAPE-JGC Consortium has estimated the project value at about USD1.45 billion and said it would request a loan of USD706 million, at a low interest rate from the Japanese government’s aid arm, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The consortium will seek another USD517 million loan at an interest rate of 4% from private lenders, while investing USD222 million of its own funds to implement the project. The consortium has not asked the Myanmar government to put up guarantee for any of the loans.

The Civil Aviation Department general director, Win Swe Tun, was quoted as saying that the latter’s offer was more attractive to the country government and reduced the risk for the nation.

“Comparing the two, Incheon wanted the government to put up collateral. But the government can’t adopt that position for a private company. So, the deal was cancelled and we selected Yongnam.”

Yongnam said it would take around four years to construct the airport and the airport should open in December 2019,  he added.

Hanthawaddy International Airport will be located at the site of an old airport near the town of Pegu, about 50 miles north of Yangon.

Yangon International Airport lacks available space for a major expansion and the government says a new international airport is needed as the country welcomes more tourists and business visitors.

Upon completion, Hanthawaddy International Airport will have the capacity to handle 12 million travellers a year. Yangon International Airport is also being upgraded and will be able to handle up to 6 million travellers a year when the expansion is complete in 2016.

However, there will be three critical years when Yangon airport’s capacity will be stretched to accommodate growth until the new airport opens and takes over the role as the main gateway.

Source : TTR Weekly

Survey on dolphin-watching to boost tourism

The Fisheries Department is conducting a survey on traditional handicrafts and popular destinations in Ayeyawady dolphin conservation areas, in cooperation with the wildlife conservation organisation, with the aim of boosting tourism by developing dolphin-watching as a major attraction.
A boom in dolphin-watching may also contribute towards dolphin conservation.
The organisation is undertaking the survey after meeting with fishermen, officials from tour companies and tour guides.
“The wildlife conservation organisation is making efforts to develop eco-tourism along with dolphin-watching. A group is conducting a survey in dolphin conservation areas with the help of foreign experts. The survey also includes the pottery industry in Shein Makar village and bamboo-hat industry on Elephant Island. These would help support tourism boom, as electric-shock fishing may decline and local residents themselves would cooperate with dolphin conservation because it would provide them income, said Han Win, assistant head from the Environment and Extinct Species Conservation Division.
Other environmentalists have expressed concern that the massive influx of tourists into the area may have hampered the nature of dolphins. The Fisheries Department is regulating dolphin-watching by tourists. Visitors can watch fishing along with dolphins when the river is teeming with fish, from November to January.
Dolphins can be seen in Myayson, Sandy Island and Sein Pangone village. In October, there were five dolphin-watching tours in Mayanchan jetty.

Source : Eleven Myanmar

Foreign investment up in hotel sector

Foreign investment volume, up until October in this fiscal year, has reached nearly US$2 billion in hotel sector in Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.

Foreign investment consists of two parts with some foreign investments flowing directly into the hotel ministry and some to Region and State Governments. All investments totaled US$2.3 billion.

Foreign investment volume increased in hotel sector because of new investors from UAE, Vietnam and ROK (South Korea). Until now, Singapore tops foreign investment in Myanmar hotel sector.

Most foreign investors prefer doing joint venture with the private sector.There has been an increase in the number of hotels and guest houses run by local businessmen in the country. There are more than 1,000 licensed hotels including guest houses owned by local businessmen, according to the ministry.

Source : Eleven Myanmar

Myanmar to add e-Visa points

More airports and two overland entry points will be added to Myanmar’s e-Visa scheme, according to the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

Two airports, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, will be added as well as four overland crossings along the border with Thailand, making it more convenient for international tourists visiting Thailand to extend their trips to Myanmar without the need to backtrack through Bangkok.

At present the only entry point valid for the e-Visa is Yangon’s international airport.

According to the Irrawaddy media report, the service will soon be extended to Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports and overland checkpoints at Myawaddy, Tachilek, Kawthaung and Htee Khee once trials have been completed.

The immigration ministry general director, Muang Muang Than, was quoted as saying: “We’re going to set up the machines, and we’ll conduct trials in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Once the system is working properly we will also introduce e-visas at four overland Thai-Burmese border stations.”

Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw are the two main international gateways after Yangon. Officials did not give a timeframe for adding more entry points.

The e-Visa system was launched at Yangon International Airport, 1 September and was used by 1,500 tourists during the first month, according to airport officials.

In the initial phase, 41 nationalities were eligible for e-Visas. That has now risen to 67 countries since. Tourists from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are the top users, officials said.

Once the online application and payment of USD50 is made, an approval letter is sent by email within five days and this can be used to get a stamp on arrival at Yangon airport.

The visas are so far restricted to tourists and have a maximum stay of 28 days. They are valid for 90 days from the date of issue. Business visas can only be obtained through embassies or on arrival at the airport, but based invitation letters and other documents that need to be screened in advance.

The e-Visa programme is part of its Myanmar Tourism Master Plan (2013 to 2020), which comprises of 38 projects. Implementation of the plan is expected to cost USD486 million. The returns could be significant if projections for tourist arrivals meet targets.

Source : TTR Weekly

Bagan temples fee rises

The tourist entrance fee for Bagan’s temples will increase from USD15 to USD20 starting 1 January next year.

The Irrawaddy news channel quoted an unnamed source from Ministry of Culture’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library as saying that the increase will generate more income for Bagan to help protect historical sites, now it is preparing for World Heritage list status.

“The entrance fee increase will have no impact on tourists visiting Bagan, which is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. They will still visit as the experience is worth considerably more than the USD20 entrance fee.”

He added: “The entrance fee at Ankor Wat in Cambodia is also USD20 and in Bagan we have many places to visit.”

The Ministry of Culture collects the tourist entrance fee, which was USD10 until June 2013, when it increased to USD15.

“The entrance fee goes directly to the country’s budget and we have to request for funds to conserve the sites in Bagan. It’s not part of the Ministry budget. We need all of the funds to ensure the sites are preserved properly for the future.”

He added that in 2012, 150,000 tourists visited Bagan increasing to 200,000 people last year.

Source : TTR Weekly

E-visa system to be expanded to Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw airports

The e-visa system will be expanded from Yangon International Airport to airports in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, Minister for Immigration and Population Khin Yi said, though he did not provide the exact date of when this will happen.

The e-visa system was launched at Yangon International Airport on September 1, and was used by nearly 1,500 tourists during the first month, according to airport officials. Tourists from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia used it the most, although tourists from 67 countries can apply for them, officials said.

Once the online application and payment of US$50 has been made, an approval letter is sent by email within five days and this can be used to get a stamp on arrival at an airport, they said.

E-visas are so far restricted to tourists and have a maximum duration of 28 days. They are valid for 90 days from the date of issue. Business visas can only be obtained through embassies or upon arrival with invitation letters and other documents.

Source : Eleven Myanmar

Hot-air expansion planned for skies above Mandalay


Foreign tourists on a hot air balloon ride over Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay.

Hot-air balloon rides will be available for tourists to enjoy an aerial view of Mandalay city starting next month, after the service flopped last year, according to the company already offering the service in Bagan, Inle Lake and Pindaya in Shan State.
The executive in charge of the Mandalay branch of Oriental Ballooning said balloon rides over Mandalay were set to begin in the first week of November, though he admitted the branch opened last October. Business has been slower to take off in Myanmar’s second-largest city than it did in Bagan, he said.
“Bagan is the major destination for hot-air balloon rides,” the executive admitted, saying that so far interest in ballooning over Mandalay had been weak. He expressed confidence, however, that it would expand.
The balloons will rise from Chan Mya Thazi airport and each ride will take about one hour and cost US$380 per person. Oriental Ballooning has also launched a campaign to promote the service ahead of the beginning of the high season for tourism, which starts next month. Passengers receive tea, coffee and snacks before the flight, fruit to munch on while gazing at the city below them, and a glass of sparkling wine after landing, according to the company’s website.
Numerous companies have launched hot-air balloon rides in Myanmar, with the first one starting in Bagan in 1999, which draws the lion’s share of the business and has several companies competing for customers.

Source : Eleven Myanmar