Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Burma tourism ready to takeoff?


Wednesday, 18 January 2012 12:11 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – French, German and British tourist were the most frequent Western tourists in Burma last year. The largest number of tourists were from Thailand, followed by China.

The number of foreign visitors passing through Rangoon International Airport rose by 21.8 per cent in 2012 to nearly 360,000, reports said Sunday.

More than two-thirds were from Asian countries, led by Thailand with 59,010 visitors, followed by China with 32,757, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Europeans accounted for 65,367 travellers, led by France with 13,102 visitors, Germany with 10,932, and Britain 7,195.

“Arrival numbers are increasing 20 per cent to 30 per cent every year”, Lynn Zaw Wai Mang, general manager of Unique Asia Travel in Rangoon, was quoted by the news agency. “It means we need to build more hotels, expand airlines and develop our infrastructure so we can offer a better level of service to visitors.”

While the numbers are good, tourism industry spokesmen are citing potential problems down the road and calling for the newly elected government to undertake rapid infrastructure changes.

An article in the Myanmar Times on January 2 cited concerns about the country’s lack of hotels and transport capacity, poor infrastructure, high prices and inefficient booking systems.

“The Myanmar tourism industry is now at a point where we need to become more professional because the number of people who want to visit Myanmar is slowly growing,” Edwin Briels, general manager of Exploration Travel and Tour, was quoted as saying.

Others cited the availability of seats on domestic airline bookings as a serious issue.

“On one side arrival numbers are growing but on the other side we don’t have enough facilities to meet demand. We have a shortage of hotel rooms and domestic [airline] seats during this year’s high season and this issue can potentially have a huge negative impact on tourism. The ministry and private sectors must consider developing a master plan to solve these problems,” said an industry spokesperson.

Industry experts said more European and American tourists could be expected. “There will be a significant increase in leisure travellers from the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, the United States and Australia from 2012 onwards,” said one expert.

“Commercial travellers will also increase with the opening up of the economy. Therefore, major leisure destinations such as Bagan, Inle and Ngapali will benefit from the high-end leisure market, and Yangon as the key commercial hub will benefit from business travellers.”

Werner Rumpf, the managing director of Sun Birds Tours, said that for European demand to really take off the tourism industry would need to see more investment.

“It can be said in one sentence: build up much better infrastructure for tourism, such as more hotels, cars, flights, guides and last but not least improved roads so that clients can see this beautiful country overland,” he said.         

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