Innovation Competition to Promote Tourism Shakeup

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 19 June 2015

RANGOON — The UK government is funding an innovation competition for Burma’s burgeoning tourism industry, hoping to assist hoteliers and other local operators will develop new ways of catering for an increasing number of foreign travelers.

Funded by the UK’s Business Innovation Facility and managed by local consulting firm HamsaHub, the competition winner will receive up to $20,000 to meet half the cost of setting up new domestic destination tourism packages.

At a launch event on Friday, competition manager Thar Lin Htet said that Burma’s tourism sector had been stifled by low arrival numbers and it was time for new approaches to revitalize the industry.

“Any hoteliers and tour companies can compete in this competition,” he said. “We’ll be consulting these candidates during the competition period to see whether or not their ideas are practical. Candidates will have to submit their proposal by the end of September, and then we will announce the winners in October.”

The award’s winner will be judged by financial benefits for local communities, commercial viability, sustainability and environmental impact. Business Innovation Facility country manager Thuta Aung said that interested parties will have until July 17 to submit a proposal, and another competition will be held next year.

Dr Aung Myat Kyaw, chairman of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA), said that innovation was sorely needed in Burma’s tourism market, but that new directions must be informed by the profile of foreign arrivals.

“There are many tourists are coming here and we must know that how to handle them,” he said. “There are many things they want here, and businesses must know how to meet these wants.”

According to UMTA data, there were more than 3 million tourists visiting Burma last year. The government has projected 5 million arrivals for 2015, and more than 1.5 million tourists visited during the first four months of the year.