Infrastructure key to future of tourism in Myanmar

Economy February 10, 2014 00:00


5,090 Viewed

MYANMAR is confident that |its newly flourishing tourism industry will attract more |than 3 million foreigners this year, up from 2.04 million in 2013.

Tourism revenue was more than US$926 million (Bt30.4 billion) last year.
Maung Maung Swe, vice chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Board, said the industry would have more room for growth this year, with new destinations being promoted across the country. The outlook over the next few years is for double-digit annual growth. But this is dependent on the success of efforts to improve its infrastructure, from new hotels to airports.
In 2016, two new international airports in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw are scheduled to open, and this will help boost the flow of businesspeople and tourists into Myanmar. 
According to statistics for 2013, travellers from Asia commanded the biggest share of arrivals with 630,399 (70 per cent), followed by 158,163 from Western Europe (18 per cent), 62,628 from North America (7 per cent), and 28,079 from Oceania (3 per cent). 
Others came from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America and Africa. 
Thais were the biggest group, with 139,770 visiting Myanmar, followed by 90,550 mainland Chinese, 68,761 Japanese and 54,934 Koreans.
New challenges
However, Maung Maung Swe acknowledged that the fast growth of the tourism sector had created headaches too, especially a lack of accom-modation and facilities and a shortage of skilled workers to serve the rising demand. Both the government and private |sector have worked on plans |to solve these problems. In particular, focus is enhancing the workforce, which needs 500,000 skilled personnel according to the long-term plan. 
Hotel construction is also on the agenda. This year, the number of hotel rooms is projected to surpass 40,000, up from 34,834 last year. Openings of new four- and five-star hotels in Yangon will include a Hilton, Rose Garden Hotel, The State House and Novotel Yangon Max, while in Nay Pyi Taw, Best Western Premier the Grand is being made ready.
Of the 39 hotel and other accommodation projects last year, 30 were completed, six (worth $882.02 million) are still under construction, |and three (worth $206.71 |million) have just received approval.
Hotel investments
Singapore was the bigger foreign investor in hotels and apartments, with 14 projects valued at just over $880 million, followed by 10 projects from Thailand with total value of $235.75 million, and six valued at about $183 million from Japan. 
As of the end of 2013, there were 923 hotels in Myanmar. However, only 17 were categorised as four-star properties, and just six as five-star. Two-star properties numbered 116, and three-star 83. There were 102 one-star hotels. Government policy is to restrict foreign investment to four- and five-star hotels to protect local operators. 
Because of the inadequate supply in major cities, especially Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, room rates have stayed high, Maung Maung Swe said. The country has made a big effort to bring rates down by decentralising its investment to other cities to promote them as new destinations, which would reduce the demand for rooms in the key cities. 
At present, five-star hotels average $280 per night.