Travel Industry Eyes Bumper Burma Tourist Season

Sign advising local people to look after tourists in Kengtung, Shan State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Sign advising local people to look after tourists in Kengtung, Shan State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

International airlines as well as local travel and hospitality providers are ramping up operations in anticipation of an influx of foreign visitors to Burma during the winter peak tourist season.

New airlines are planning routes into Burma’s big cities while existing carriers—including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, AirAsia, Myanmar Airways International (MAI), Malaysia Airlines, SilkAir and Jetstar Airways—are increasing their services.

“New international airlines will seek to fly directly to Mandalay Airport but the hotel room booking capacity and size of the airport is not sufficient for such a large number of tourists,” a spokesperson for the High International Standard Travel and Tours (HIS) told The Irrawaddy.

“They will start by renovating two airports—Rangoon and Mandalay—and later they will also extend Bagan and Naypyidaw once the infrastructure of the first airports has been finished.”

In 2011, Burma officially welcomed 391,000 international visitors—an increase of almost 26 percent from the previous year. However, much of that figure includes businesspeople and cross-border visitors.

The true number of tourists is probably closer to 25,000, say independent analysts, which is a far cry from countries such as neighboring Thailand, which boasts figures of between 11 and 15 million tourists every year.

However, political reforms initiated since President Thein Sein came to power last year—including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi being elected to Parliament—and the subsequent easing of international trade sanctions have seen the country become a new tourism hotspot. Burma was ranked second in the Lonely Planet list of top countries to visit in 2012.

Around 90,000 Thai tourists are expected to visit Burma this year, according to the Kasikorn Research Center. The figure is a 30 percent rise on 2011 and Thai tourists are expected to spend around US $40,000,000 in their western neighbor.

Thailand will provide around 18 percent of the forecasted 500,000 foreign tourists to arrive in Burma in 2012. Kasikorn predicts the top five visitor countries to Burma to be China, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), Korean Air, Eva and Qatar Airways will start services in time for the peak tourist season which lasts from early October to the end of April.

“Korean Air will fly Boeing A380s two times for a week as well as ANA too. But ANA’s flights will include only 48 business seats without economy class,” said the HIS spokesperson.

In the last week of July, domestic airlines announced a hike in flight prices of nearly ten percent for the coming high season—a rise of nearly 30 percent compared with the same time last year. Rangoon-Mandalay flights will cost US $128 one way, Rangoon-Heho/Nyaung Oo will cost $120 and Rangoon-Myitkyina will cost $200 from Oct. 1.

The Ministry of Immigration officially announced the rollout of visas-on-arrival at Mandalay and Naypyidaw airports from October after resuming the service for business and transit passengers arriving in Rangoon from June 1.

A 24-hour transit visa currently costs $20, a visa for meetings and conferences lasts 28 days at $40 and business visas last 70 days for $70.

Starting from Oct. 1, domestic carrier MAI will start flying to Seoul, Hong Kong and Laos in addition to its current international connections with Singapore, Gaya in India and Guangzhou in southern China.

9 Responses to Travel Industry Eyes Bumper Burma Tourist Season

  1. Every tourist who visits Myanmar can tell the standard of our country as soon as he/she arrives our airport terminal. The facility is different substandard and the hospitality is another substandard. About 50 years of neglect, Myanmar is remaining almost at Stone Age compared to other countries in the world. Even Cambodia has much better facilities to host tourists. The legacy of Ne Win and Than Shwe is our shame.

  2. Thailand is now worrying. But we will not sell our sisters like them. Myanmar’s value will be different from the Thais. No Pat Pong in Myanmar. Never.

    • My friend you are in la, la, land; massage parlors, karaoke dens, lap dances, discreet encounters for the flesh, sex-escapades are ubiquitous as tanka one sees’on faces. Our sister and brothers have already been bought and sold; I think you need to get out of the phongyi chon and walk the streets of Mandalay and Yangon.

  3. I have checked Burmese Hotel price my friends on burma-travel com.
    One of my friends has been to Burma in 2010 and he stayed at Thamada Hotel for US$ 20 but now it was US$ 55. The hotel price in Burma has raise more than double in 2012.
    Cheapest hotel price is US$ 55 in Rangoon and US$ 40 in other cities but not guarantee you will get lowest price accommodation when you arrived in country if you’re not booking before you go to Burma. Tourists are rarely advanced booking for accommodation except rich one.
    That’s a most inconvenience situation for budget tourists. Burmese hoteliers need to learn from Thailand and other Asia countries. You can’t make big money before tourists flock into Burma.
    If I were budget tourist and then I’ll stay away from Burma because I don’t want to spend all money on hotel, bus, train and flight.
    Hoteliers may be made some handsome money from a few tourists but other businesses are not.
    Burmese Government must fix these problems if Burma wants tourists.

  4. Policy allowing ex-citizen relatives reside with family and friends would need to change. Reporting procedures need to be less rigorious, fewer levels and less commission demands from corrupt officials would obviously make more rooms for hotel rooms for foreigners. Hotel prices need to be more realistic and cheaper for the standard and services that’s on offer. Myanmar people should be able to offer bed and breakfast type comfortable, clean and cheap accommodation to return ex-citizens and foreigners wanting to experience real Myanmar life.
    Foreigners need to support and purchase local eateries and businesses instead of the usual eat at the hotels.
    My major concern is the dignity and protection of Myanmar boys and girls. There is already sexual exploitation of Myanmar children by fat, ugly, Chinese, Korean, and White men in hotels. Hotel staff and owners beside putting up UNICEF posters refuse to do anything about it so that they don’t loss their business. Before it gets worse violence, abuse and exploitation must be made priority before the Arabs arrival. UNICEF and NGOs are all talk – just not interested in really protection the children.
    Myanmar living abroad should be invited to contribute to country’s development and expension instead of new colonialism of all whites and Chinese running the show.
    Let’s just plan it well. Let’s put the interest of the people before money and coorprate greet.

  5. There goes my annual hajj to Yangon and Mandalay…what with the hotel prices heading north and the value of the dollar heading south; it is cheaper to fly the family over to Bangkok: They will get a bang for their buck.

  6. Is this independent analyst sure that the probable number of tourists is 25,000… or is it 250,000? Or is it actually just a typo (error)? I could believe that maybe a quarter of a million people visit Myanmar as tourists, but I doubt that a quarter of a million people visit Myanmar as businessmen.

  7. Never mind “exploitation of Myanmar children by fat, ugly, Chinese, Korean, and White men in hotels”
    The Myanmar men in Land Crusiers are doing it to the children of Myanmar quite regularly.

    Just one event in Nay Pyi Taw and all the hotels are full, it must be good to be a crony.

  8. Having looked at the prices of accomodation in Myanmar, we have decided it’s ridiculously over-priced. We’ll be going to an Asian country for our next holiday that doesn’t treat tourists like fools (or convenient ATMs).

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