Myanmar Travel and Tourism

Burma Travel and Tourism

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outbounding travels, varying flavors meet local tourist operators

More and more Myanmar rejects packages to the country's best tourist locations for DIY and low-cost touring. After Myanmar began its democratic transformation in 2011, the tourist industrial explosion led to a huge rise in the number of international tourists to a country that quickly became one of the world's most important up-and-coming tourist attractions.

It was also a blessing for the local tourist industries, which sprouted in the years after 2011 as more and more Myanmar began to travel far and far across its land, from the Gulf of Bengal to Bagan's sandy beach and more.

In 2014 and 2015 alone, the Union of Myanmar Tourism Association reports that the number of tourist agents concentrating on home travelers increased by around 300 each. Most of these local tourist agents have not yet signed up with the Directorate of Investment and Corporate Management. The DICA website, however, does list 2,250 listed businesses with company identities that designate them as tourist agents.

The majority of local tourist agents offered packages that contained transportation, lodging, food and guidebooks if required. Favourite holiday packages for inland travelers were the seaside towns of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung on the western shore of Ayeyarwady and the picturesque towns of Kayin state.

Pilgrimages to the Bagan Temple in the Mandalay region and to Mount Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock) in the state of Mon were also very well-filled. There are indications, however, that as the number of inland passengers increases, more of them have taken their own precautions: The number of tourist agency advertisements offering packages to Myanmar has fallen significantly since early 2015.

"The Myanmar population felt they did not want to go on packages and chose to build their own itineraries," said Ma Kay Khine Wint, founders of Royal Caravan Travels & Events in Yangon. "Kay Khine Wint tells Frontier, "Most agents make quick breaks with busy timetables and those who want more free air on their travels don't go on packages.

High costs of accommodations have also helped to reduce the number of travel arrangements because it has become more expensive for travel agents to provide them at reasonable rates, she said. "It' s become inconceivable to fill 45-seater busses for travel arrangements, and we had to alter our advertising policy and put together two or four-person parcels to see certain destinations," said Kay Khine Wint.

Rather than offering packages, many agents rely on booking hotels and tickets. Union of Myanmar Travellers Association Secretary-General U Naung Naung Han says that local tourist agents need to be more innovators to cope with the slowdown in packages, e.g. through more activity at tourist sites.

"There must be more activity on the shore than just going for a swim; without new things to do at a destination, you'll be tired and won't want to go," Naung Naung Han commented. One of the reasons for the decline in the number of trips within Myanmar is that more Myanmar is on holiday abroad, according to MEPs.

These trends are mirrored in the advertisements of more and more travel to neighboring destinations and the increasing popularity of travel in Myanmar. As a result of the tough competitive environment in the Thai tourism sector, the costs for a vacation in Phuket Island seaside resort are about the same as for a few nights in Ngwe Saung.

Yangon Branch PR Director Ma Nang Su Hnin Htwe of the Yangon Offices of Jovago, the Myanmar-based website for hotels starting end of 2015, said that "more and more" individuals are using her services. Commenting on the decision, Nang Su Hnin Htwe, who is also a traveller's blogsman, said it is a major challange for the tourist sector to ensure that tourist attractions stay the same.

"But when a tourist resort becomes popular and draws more tourists who carelessly dispose of garbage, it will loose its attractiveness and will want to go to a new place," she said to Frontier. The Naung Naung Han was unanimous that destinations managment is decisive. "Co-operation between the Union administration, provincial governments, hotel owners and neighbours is necessary," said Naung Naung Han.

"The destinations managment involves the maintenance of locations to keep them neat and orderly and to provide a number of tourist activities," he said. Hnin Htwe said in a commentary by Nang Su that they should also provide parcels to draw in low-seasons. "In May now, even if they are less interested in travel, the price of accommodation will not be so much reduced," she said.

The Naung Naung Han also proposed to offer those who live in touristic places funding in order to create activites or programmes that would make the site more interesting for people. More and more local governments are focusing on Myanmar as a tourism area. Thailand's tourism authority is advertising the UK as a travel destination in Myanmar on Facebook, the country's most favourite online community.

Also Vietnam and the Isle of Bali in Indonesia are becoming favourite tourist attractions for Myanmar-travelers. A number of Myanmar operators are disappointed that Myanmar is no longer doing anything to help its local tourist industry and is reversing a tendency that has led to more and more small tour operators leaving the game.

Frontier research shows that four out of five Facebook advertisers have been shut down in recent years. "Naung Naung Han said the Chinese authorities should concentrate more on internal tourists. "Heard of the word'tourism', the goverment thinks only of overseas people. Domestically travelling makes a major difference to the tourist industry and political decision-makers need to rethink their thinking," he said.

He said he was unaware of the government's policy to encourage internal travel and that it was the right moment to develop it.

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