This week, we take you straight to the heart of:
Myanmar’s Tourism and its Latest Developments
Tourists from 26 different countries such as Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Denmark, France, Japan, and New Zealand will soon be benefiting from the visa-on-arrival scheme implemented by Burma. Seen as a major vehicle in boosting tourism numbers, the Burmese government has laid out plans to extend the scheme to include 22 more nations “that have made large investments in the country”.
The article outlines the requirements for obtaining a visa. “A tourist needs to have a passport issued by one of the qualifying countries, and two passport photographs taken within the previous six months. If a person wants a business visa, he or she must have a letter of introduction from a relevant company”.
The visa can be applied for at both the Yangon International Airport and Mandalay International Airport.
The following article is on how Visa Inc. wants to expand its financial services in Burma while the development of credit cards is still in its early stages. Visa Inc. has announced its intention to introduce Visa cards in Burma and “discussed how the national payment network Myanmar Payment Union […] and the upcoming expansion of mobile-phone services might be used to roll out is financial services”. This is another welcome development towards more convenient travel, on top of the recent implementation of visas upon arrival.
The next article announces, “tourists are now crowding at hotels in Keng Tong Township in Shan State for celebrating its festivals”. Keng Tong, located in the uttermost east of Myanmar, is well-known for celebrating the Shan New Year with great ceremony. Celebrations usually fall in early December. This year’s festivities are slated for the 12th through the 14th. Great festivals of song and dance will delight tourists and local people alike. Not to mention, the town’s beautiful innate cultural heritage.
The piece notes the increasing number of tourist arrivals in Keng Tong due to the increase in domestic flights and because “tour agencies are offering trips to Keng Tong […] since they currently avoid offering those destinations in Kachin and Rakhine in view of their tourists’ safety”.
Revealing steadily rising figures since 2011, the uptake is due in part to “a rising number of tourists from Europe who have rarely visited the country in the past […], [with] more Scandinavians tourists”. Positive growth is also supported by the significant increase in the number of visitors arriving through the Yangon International Airport, which is registering “a 55-percent-rise year-on-year”.
However, as much as tourism is welcome in Burma, it does have its corresponding challenges as in the case of Bagan, a historic city in the Mandalay Region.
The service sector in Bagan “have failed to meet the demands of an increasing number of foreign tourists”.
The article cites as an example tour companies who have had to “make arrangements for the tourists to travel by car from Bagan to Inle Lake and Taunggyi because of flight booking difficulties”. Tour guides fear “that tourists will be turned off due to [such] failure of the service sector to meet rising demand”.
Although it is clear that the tourism market in Burma has great potential as a whole, there is strong immediate pressure for the service market to make the necessary adjustments within a very short period of time. It becomes increasingly complex when local economic development is taken into consideration. As previously discussed, the ideal scenario is when tourism development follows the path of responsible development and protection of cultural heritage.
Unfortunately, efforts to keep up with tourism growth have parallel negative effects as revealed in the next article, “a historic building in downtown Rangoon had a last-minute reprieve when conservation activists managed to stop its demolition with a media campaign that received central government backing”. As the article reveals, this is not the first time the threat of, or actual, demolitions occurred. Over the years, the situation has become an increasingly critical issue from the standpoint of heritage conservation. Historic colonial buildings are constantly being threatened, primarily to give way to hotel and housing needs. To quote the Burma Lawyers Network, “it is the duty of the Burmese authorities to safeguard national heritage buildings which will serve to benefit the people in the long-term”.
We warmly encourage you to read this article in more detail.
Have a good week!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
PS: We will have a short break and resume posts in about two weeks.