Myanmar’s tourist industry is currently experiencing a period of unprecedented bloom due to reforms and changes put in place by its current government. Htay Aung, a government minister speaking to the media this week said that the government’s biggest challenge so far is to make sure they continue to develop the nation’s infrastructure and resources in order to be able to meet the increasing demand on the nation.
According to him, the government has projected that it is expecting the amount of foreign tourists to reach the 2 million mark by the end of the year. He said, “2011 was the year tourism in Myanmar started to show a positive increase. We saw a 30% increase in the numbers we had last year. With figures such as these in mind, we have to get to work on improving our infrastructure so we can support the increase.”
The country hopes to increase its 30,000 hotel rooms by a third by the end of the year, with a majority of those new ones to be in Yangon in order to target business travellers. With the increase in room numbers also comes the added pressure on resources and services, something the country is very familiar with as their hotels have a reputation for overcharging whilst providing a poor service for its customers.
Many projects have been lined up throughout the country, most notably in Ngapali, Mandalay, Yangon, Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw, with world-renowned hotel chains such as Best Western, Hilton, Marriott and Accor a few of the big names lined up to take advantage if this create new opportunity.
Another positive increase in the country is that of airline services; this is a very important aspect of tourism as a majority of the visitors will be arriving in the country by air. Easier rules regarding the acquisition of visas will also go a long way to encouraging new tourists.
The Burmese government aims to attract more than 7 million tourists by then end of the year 2020 and has set about doing this by listening to bids from various companies who are interested in the projects to build three new airports in the country
There will be major upgrades done on the current international airports in Mandalay and Rangoon as a new international airport big enough to compete against the major airports of the nearby countries will be erected in the central Pegu Division of Burma’s biggest city.
A Burmese Civil Aviation Authority representative said “This new project will be the biggest we have ever undertaken, and is expected to be almost ten times bigger than Yangon airport. We need this new airport if we are to keep expanding and meet increasing demand. The aim of this bidding process is to identify the right company, and by that we mean one that can cater for over 10 million travellers each year and will also have the airport open for business by 2018”
The government knows the importance of the tourism sector as it is set to add over US$ 10 billion to the economy per annum. Minister for Tourism Htay Aung said the projected new airport is aimed at bringing in the carriers who go on long-haul trips, to fly directly. “It is imperative the new airport in Bago is opened as soon as possible as at this moment we are limited in regards to our flight options.
The government knows that a majority of the travellers who come to the nation via a long-haul flight do so through the much bigger airports situated in various south east Asian nations such as Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, and aims to wrestle these travellers from their grips with this new bigger airport.
The magical, mysterious and magnificent country of Burma remains an enigma to most of the world. It is well known by now that significant changes have occurred and more are certainly in the works, but for the average tourist, the signals are mixed.
Call it Myanmar if you insist, but from all reports the people who live there prefer to call it Burma, and they are Burmese, not Myanmarans, Myanmarese or what-have-you.
With its incredible wealth of natural beauty plus marvels of the man-made variety – a fabulous array of pagodas, temples and shrines from small and simple to gigantic gold-plated extravaganzas – Burma has a world of wonders for visitors to experience and enjoy. There is definitely no lack of attractions, but there is still a big question about how they should be approached.
According to many observers, tourism may be the best way for Burma/Myanmar to advance from its former isolation and the severe repression of its citizens that, to a large extent is still going on. That said, the necessity of ‘responsible tourism’ should be very obvious. Burma’s almost mystical allure owes a great deal to the fact that it is still undeveloped in terms of the modern world; visitors must be aware that many of the modern comforts they have come to expect will not be found here.
This awareness is one of the keys to a rewarding journey that ultimately benefits not just the traveller or the travel agents, but the people who live, work, pray and play in this predominantly Buddhist country. From all reports offered by those with first hand experience, Burma’s people are as kindly and gentle as its former, partially dismantled but still powerful military government is harsh and unforgiving.
That attitude of guileless friendship will inevitably change – in fact it is changing already in places like Bagan and other highly promoted tourist attractions. Still, it seems to be in the nature of this culture and its people to befriend outsiders who have not proven to be their enemies.
Ideally, it would be part of every visitor’s agenda to learn as much as possible about the things they see and the people they meet, and to behave as considerate guests rather than aloof sightseers. The rewards for everyone concerned can be boundless.
The only event that comes to mind as a comparison is the Rose Bowl Parade with its enormous floats decorated with millions and millions of flowers, leaves and all sorts of other floral offerings, but the dancing elephants at Kyaukse in Myanmar are in a class of their own, and a magnificent class it is.
Each year Kyaukse, a small town about 48km south of Mandalay is host to an amazing festival centered around a great pagoda built about 2,000 years ago by Anawrahta, King of Bagan. At that time Bagan, with its fertile lands, was the ‘breadbasket’ for the mighty Bagan kingdom, and Anawrahta wanted a suitable place for his subjects to worship.
The story goes that the King placed holy relics on an elephant’s back and set it free with the vow of building a pagoda where the elephant stopped to rest. This elephant climbed the Kyaukse hill and there he stopped, so there Shwe Tharlyaung, or the Reclining Buddha Pagoda, was built, and the Kyaukse Elephant Festival was born.
Each year at the full moon in October, Kyaukse and all the surrounding towns and villages celebrate the event, partly in homage to Buddha, partly in honor of Uttay Na, the patron spirit of elephants. Six months earlier, preparations begin on construction of the elephants, an undertaking that is incredibly pain-staking, full of trade secrets that are jealously guarded, and marvelous in its artistry.
As the elephants are taking form, teams of villagers are practicing with last year’s elephant on the intricate steps of the dances they will perform during the Festival’s competition. Some teams with their elephants will not compete but instead entertain pilgrims and visitors in the streets with acrobatics and antics that any tourist has to see to believe.
In fact the entire Festival must be seen to be believed; it starts in the early morning and goes on ’til after dark, and the winner of the competition performs a final exuberant dance at the foot of the hill next morning. Travellers should be aware that there are very few accommodations available, but Kyaukse is only an hour’s drive from Mandalay.
If you are one of the huge and growing number of adventurers with a fascination for the long-forbidden wonders of Myanmar, you’re probably also aware that the country is in the throes of some major changes. Politically the situation is still unstable but reports from recent visitors indicate that the trend is towards opening up rather than restricting various avenues of access to the ‘real’ Myanmar.
Probably the most important thing a potential visitor can do, aside from deciding on an (adjustable) itinerary is a bit of pre-flight research. Myanmar’s only international airports are in Yangon and Mandalay, with the [...]
Myanmar’s busiest airport – that in former capital Yangon – will once again be served by Qatar Airways, after a recent announcement told of plans to restore regular flights serving the city. These will be the first since the airline suspended the service in January 2008, and will fly from Qatar Airways’ main hub in Doha into Yangon three times a week, via an Airbus 319 aircraft.
During a flight on this very route, just last Thursday, company CEO, Akbar Al Baker, conducted a delegation. During the discussion, he noted the timing of the restoration of the service, recognising both [...]
At the museum in Bagan there are many display rooms. The ground floor certainly has one of the most impressive rooms in the entire museum and it is large enough to hold a significant conference.
Instead of being used for this purpose however, it houses many different artefacts from Myanmar’s history, that are significant to the Bagan Period. You will find woodcarvings, stucco works, terracotta, metal works, stone sculptures, and lacquer works among others.
There is also a showroom here which displays some of the clothes that were worn during this period in the country’s history and there are also [...]
From the time of its earliest civilisation, the country still known to many as Burma, now officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, has evolved around three major rivers.
The longest and by far the most famous is the Ayeyarwaddy, better known to most of the modern world as the Irrawaddy River. This great river has been a source of livelihood and a vital transportation and communications link from time immemorial.
Commercial and military craft have plied the river for centuries; the headwaters of the Irrawaddy represent a gateway to the overland trade route to China, where the [...]
The long isolation of Myanmar, still known to many as Burma, may be coming to an end, but there is still a long way to go.
Western sanctions prohibiting commerce with the country have been suspended or lifted in some cases, and over the past year or so the word has gone out that foreign tourists are welcomed by the Parliamentary government, and certainly by the majority of Myanmar’s people.
Lonely Planet placed Myanmar at Number 2 on its list of the top ten countries for adventure travel in 2012, and the tourist board is scrambling to meet the challenge [...]
Burma is becoming a destination that is growing in popularity but despite this almost all of the international traffic into the country is coming through its old airport; Yangon International. This airport is five decades old and its age is certainly beginning to show.
The government have announced that they are currently seeking out investors to help fund a new airport which will be built around 50 miles from the current airport. It is thought that it will be constructed on the site of an airport that was built during the Second World War by the Japanese.
On the state [...]