IN VIEW of the Asian Development Bank’s projection that tourism will become a key driver of Myanmar’s economic growth in the next two years, Myanmar Voyages Co, the leading destination management company (DMC) in the country, is boosting its readiness to cash in on the tourism boom, said the firm’s managing director Thet Lwin Toh in an exclusive interview with The Nation in Yangon.
He said the firm would further invest in manpower, digital systems and accounting services to better serve the increasing volume of visitors coming to the country.
“We need to be ready for international visitors flocking to Myanmar. We must have enough capacity in place to serve more tourists if Myanmar is to become one of the top tourism destinations in Asia,” he said.
As part of the strategy to maintain its leadership in the destination management segment, the firm will boost its human capital and workforce over time.
“We have set our heart on doing well at the corporate level. Now, we are focusing on decentralisation, allowing all the line managers to freely make their own decisions on most of the important matters,” he said.
The firm currently has 60 employees with 75 per cent based in the company’s headquarters in Yangon while the rest work at its three branches in Bagan, Mandalay and Inle.
“We are constantly monitoring the latest developments in tourism . We will expand our team with the new generation, such as graduates from tourism study,” he said.
He stressed the importance of grooming local talents. In this regard, the firm provides in-house training to foster the personal development of its staff, and raises awareness on social and environmental problems industry players are facing.
“We have nurtured more than 120 professional service providers in the hospitality sector, and I personally give lectures on tourism at the National Management Degree College,” he said.
Thet Lwin Toh established a tour operations company in 1993, offering pilgrimage tours to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and quickly became a pioneering outbound tourism operator. Three years later, he founded Myanmar Voyages Co to provide inbound and outbound exclusive tours.
The executive takes pride in becoming the pioneer in bringing Spanish, Northern Europe and South American visitors to Myanmar. As a Travelife certified company, it offers exclusive tours and logistic services such as aviation ground handling and port coordination.
Designed to delight all kind of visitors, the firm offers a wide range of packages from one-day excursions to multi-week tours including extension tours, short breaks, honeymoon trips, classic tours, luxury tours, leisure tours, adventure tours, trekking, balloon adventures, and day trips.
“Our experienced team is always ready to help customers design the trip of their dreams, customising the tours to their satisfaction,” he said.
“We believe that friendship comes before business. We aim to establish close and long-lasting relationships with our partners, trying our best to make them feel like a second family.”
According to the executive, Myanmar Voyages currently enjoys 10 to 20 per cent growth on a yearly basis. Inbound tourism and package tours will be the key driver of the firm’s growth in the near future, while it will also focus on cruise tourism, leisure tours and MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions). To date, the firm has provided personalised services to thousands of visitors coming to Myanmar via more than 120 luxury cruises and it has acquired more than half of the market shares in Myanmar’s cruise tourism.
In light of Myanmar’s Look East policy which aims to boost visitor arrivals from Eastern countries, Thet Lwin Toh foresees an increase in visitors from Japan, China, Korea and India in the next few months.
Yet, he considers zero dollar tours by some Chinese companies as a “growing threat” to Myanmar’s tourism industry.
“We have witnessed bold moves by tourism authorities to improve visitor arrivals by allowing visa-free travels and the visa-on-arrival scheme for some countries. It is a step in the right decision, and we expect it to continue,” he said.
“But, the authorities must be cautious about foreign tour operators taking advantages of our opening, and should take measures to protect the interest of locals.”