NAYPYIDAW — Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc opened its first luxury hotel in Burma on Friday, after completing an upgrade of a hotel in the capital Naypyidaw owned by local conglomerate Eden Group.
The new hotel is one of five high-end hotels planned in Burma by Hilton, the world’s largest hotel operator by market value, which first announced the plans in June.
At a cost of US$47 million Eden Group’s Thingaha Garden Hotel was upgraded to become the Hilton Hotel, with 202 rooms in a building located on a 100-acre area in Dekkhinathiri Township in Naypyidaw, according to Eden Group Director Than Htut.
He said the investment was made by Eden Group, which continues to own the hotel but pays a share of its annual profits to Hilton in exchange for use of its brand name and its support in managing and upgrading the hotel to five-star quality standards.
“We want our hotel in Naypyidaw to become international hotel chain quality, that’s why we decided to work with Hilton Group,” Than Htut said.
“I am so delighted to be here to open the first Hilton Hotel in Myanmar, this opening marks very significant milestone for Hilton Worldwide Asia Pacific,” William Costely, head of Hilton Group for the Asia Pacific Region, said during an opening ceremony.
Eden Group will also work with Hilton Group to carry out a $10-million upgrade of its Thingaha Ngapali Hotel in the beach resort in southern Arakan State in order to make it a Hilton Hotel, according Than Htut.
Hilton Group is working with Thailand-based LP Holding to open up a Hilton Hotel in Rangoon in Centrepoint Tower, at the corner of Sule Pagoda and Merchant roads. Another two Hilton hotels are being planned near the temple complex of Bagan in Mandalay Divsion and near Inle Lake in Shan State.
Than Htut said it had been a priority for Eden and Hilton to open the Naypyidaw hotel ahead of the 25th Asean Summit and the East Asia Summit, which will be held on Nov. 12-13.
Burma chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year and the events will bring Asian and world leaders, including US President Obama, to the capital together with hundreds diplomats, officials and journalists.
“All international hotel chains expect to receive many international delegates for the Asean Summit in November. After that, we expect that other foreign guests will come for business purposes or state affairs,” Than Htut said. “The US government has now lifted economic sanctions on many businesses in Myanmar; many US businessmen want to come here. That’s why Hilton is confident to work here” in Naypyidaw.
Hilton is the fourth international hotel chain to open up in the capital, after Switzerland-headquartered Kempinski, Singapore’s Parkroyal and France’s Accor Group all opened luxury hotels in Naypyidaw in partnerships with local business conglomerates.
Work on Burma’s new capital began about a decade ago on orders of the former military junta, which enlisted the help of the country’s tycoons to construct government buildings and hotels in the capital. To this day, the government encourages investment in the sprawling but largely empty city that is home to mostly government officials.
Eden Group is owned by one of Burma’s wealthiest tycoons, Chit Khaing, who has businesses interests in construction, hotels and tourism, banking and agriculture.
A US Embassy cable from 2007 described him as “an up and coming crony, [who] has parlayed his regime connections to amass great wealth, while most Burmese struggle to survive.” Unlike some other well-connected tycoons, he was not blacklisted by the US Treasury Department.
The US cable said “Eden Group was one of eight companies that constructed Naypyidaw.” It built the President’s Palace and the Defense Services Museum and the Thingaha Garden Hotel in an arrangement with the regime, which paid Eden Group with car import licenses.