Myanmar gets ready to greet the tourists

Formerly known as Burma, the military leaders of Myanmar have transferred their power to civilians and have released one of Asia’s most famous political prisoners, Aung San Suu Kyi.  Since then, Myanmar’s negative image in public opinion polls has started to change for the better.

Myanmar has long been considered as a pariah state due to its harsh military government and its poor record on human rights. For years, most countries called to boycott Myanmar, and this was reflected by tourism figures. While other ASEAN countries prospered and enjoyed healthy growth in tourist arrivals, Myanmar continued to stagnate.

The move into a more opened Myanmar starts to translate into the air capacity on offer. Myanmar Airways International (MAI), Thai Airways, and Thai AirAsia recently increased their capacities on the Bangkok-Yangon route, while Vietnam Airlines inaugurated a four-weekly service this winter from Ho Chi Minh City to Yangon. Regional Burmese carrier, Air Bagan, reopened the Yangon-Chiang Mai route, while MAI will inaugurate two weekly frequencies in February to Siem Reap and plans flights to Kunming, Jakarta, and Macau. In Myanmar’s new capital, Nay Pi Taw, a new international airport is due to be completed by the beginning of 2013 at the latest, as the city will welcome the Southeast Asian Games during the same year.

Last year, Myanmar decided to granted visa-on-arrivals from June. The experience lasted only four months as the government again suspended the facility in November due to the coming elections.

Myanmar is ready to cooperate more with its neighbours. A new international border checkpoint is due to open with Laos, a country which has more than doubled its number of international visitors in the past few years.    

According to the Ministry of Tourism, five new hotels are under construction, adding some 1,415 rooms to the 23,435 rooms already available in the 691 accommodation facilities recorded across the country. Hotels’ largest investors are mainly originated from Singapore, Thailand, and Japan. Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon, Ngapali Beach, which is situated near the Thai border, Inke Lake, and Nay Pi Taw are the main beneficiaries of hotel investments.

Given that people are always looking for new places to discover, if Myanmar can keep its political situation in check, then it may find itself becoming the new “best place to visit” in Asia.

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