NAYPYIDAW — The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has warned that it would take legal action against guesthouses that host foreign travelers without proper licenses.
A hotels and tourism law bans guesthouses that operate with municipal permits from accommodating foreign travelers, according to U Myint Htwe, a director within the ministry.
“The ministry has issued a law that bans unlicensed guesthouses and guesthouses licensed by departments other than the hotels and tourism ministry from catering to foreign travelers,” said U Myint Htwe.
Hotels must apply for licenses from the ministry, but guesthouses do not need to seek ministry approval and can apply for permits from concerned township development committees or departments.
The ministry issued instructions earlier this month to municipal guesthouses stating that they should only use Burmese language signs so that tourists would not understand and would not attempt to stay overnight.
Municipal guesthouse owners that violate the law can be punished with up to three years imprisonment, a fine of 50,000 kyats (US$40), or a combination of the two.
The ministry stated that the instructions were made to provide convenience to foreign travelers.
“Foreign travelers are often very tired and want to rest when they arrive. We explain to them that we aren’t allowed to host them but they don’t want to listen. And others just want to save money and our rooms are in good enough condition for them,” said a guesthouse owner in Pyay Township of Pegu Division who asked to remain anonymous.
According to sources at the hotels and tourism ministry, there are 1,371 licensed hotels in Burma with more than 53,000 rooms.
The Burmese government predicts 5.5 million tourist arrivals this year, with 2.4 million having arrived by the end of August, according to the ministry—although the majority of these are said to be day visitors crossing land borders, who are not normally counted according to international tourism standards, and all visitors—including business travelers—are counted as “tourists.”