Ministry gets tough on licences for foreign guests

Guesthouse owners have criticised a government decision they say will stop them taking in foreign tourists. Under the law, owners who let rooms to foreign guests without a licence could be jailed for three years.

U Myint Htwe, director of the tourism ministry, told The Myanmar Times that the law would be applied to guesthouse owners even if they had an operating licence issued by their local township if they failed to comply with other provisions of the law. Hotels and guesthouses catering to foreign tourists have to meet certain standards, including providing en suite bathrooms.

“If the guesthouses have good enough facilities to serve tourists, they can apply for a hotel licence. If not, they can’t accept foreign visitors,” he said.

The ministry also banned local guesthouses that lack such facilities from putting up English-language signs.

“If the guesthouse can take in only Myanmar guests and not foreigners, their signboard has to be in the Myanmar language only,” he said, adding that guesthouse owners faced three years’ imprisonment or a K50,000 fine for taking in foreign guests without a licence.

But the government’s stance has been attacked as unreasonable.

“What happens in major tourist attractions like Bagan at peak season, when there are not enough rooms? And maybe some foreigners are on a tight budget. Will the ministry put them up if they can’t afford a hotel?” said guesthouse owner U Khin Maung Myint, who lives in Nyaung-U.

Guesthouses offered tourists more security than a monastery or sleeping rough, he said.

Ministry director U Myint Htwe also said no more hotel rooms were allowed in major locations, including Yangon, Mandalay, Inle lake and Taunggyi because hotel accommodation was already in surplus there.

“We need more hotel rooms in other locations, where there is still demand,” he said.

The tourism ministry has issued 1371 hotel licences, and there are 53,000 hotel rooms nationwide.


Source: The Myanmar Times

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