Myanmar agents grapple with slowdown in arrivals – TTG Asia

TRAVEL agents in Myanmar are concerned about flatlining arrival numbers after experiencing a boom in recent years.

Figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism reveal foreign arrivals soared from 1.6 million in 2012 to 4.6 million last year, with 5.5 million forecast for this year.

However, almost two-thirds of arrivals were day trippers from neighbouring countries who, under international standards, would not normally be counted as tourists.

With a wealth of potential for tourism to grow, industry players say major changes need to be made if it is to attract foreigners who stay for more than a day.

The strong growth in the last five years has been largely due to political reforms, said Edwin Briels, general manager of Khiri Travel Myanmar. He said the country welcomed a rush of “early adopters” clamouring to see Myanmar emerge from its political shackles and witness the country go through a historical transition.

This trend has plateaued, with agents claiming measures need to be taken to capture “early majority” travellers.

Briel said: “These people aren’t proper Burma lovers like those who used to come here. They want better facilities, they need value for money. More needs to be offered than just the temples.”

Myanmar also needs to be marketed better to the outside world, with many travellers put off by out-of-date warnings issued by foreign offices.

Sandor Leinwand, general manager of EXO Travel Myanmar, said: “There are so many areas opening up that are exciting but foreign offices warn against going there so that pulls us back. They need to bring their advice in line with the Myanmar government.”

Growth was also hampered by November’s historic elections, with many travellers hesitant to book until the new government, which officially came into power in April, settled.

High costs are also a deterrent, said Lee Sheridan, general manager of Peak DMC Myanmar. Hotel rooms are significantly higher than those of nearby countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, with many businesses hiking up accommodation and domestic airfare prices for foreigners.

Sheridan said: “I do think these are all short-term problems. If dealt with, Myanmar has a very prosperous future in tourism.”


Source: TTG Asia

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