As leisure travel picks up among Myanmar’s citizens, domestic tourism is surging and helping to plant the country’s emerging destinations on the international travel map.
Domestic travel is on the rise, hitting an all-time high of more than 10 million people in 2017, according to Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairperson, May Myat Mon Win.
The WTTC predicts domestic travel expenditure will reach 2.9 trillion kyats (US$2.2 billion) by 2027.
Said May Myat Mon Win: “Travelling is becoming (a larger) part of the younger generation’s life. Two generations ago people saved and bought gold, the next generation bought land. This generation is saving to travel; it’s becoming a part of the lifestyle.”
And it is these travellers who are driving the international appetite for new destinations across the country.
May Myat Mon Win added: “Domestic travellers move first. They discover the new places, then local incentive groups take interest, then development starts and then the foreigners move in.”
She cited Hpa-An in Kayin State as an example. The city and surrounding state have been on the radar of locals for years, thanks to its plethora of sacred sites and sprawling countryside. A recent raft of nature- and community-based attractions have been developed, and local accommodations and restaurants are now starting to cater to overseas visitors.
Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, said when Khiri started operating kayaking tours in Kayin State in 2015, it was off foreigners’ radar. “There were no guides in Hpa-An and simple hotels, but we still thought it’s worth visiting. We said, ‘you’ll have to rough it a bit but it’s worth it.’ Now we see more hotels coming and the clients will start coming.”
Greg Allan, vice-president of operations (ASEAN) at Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which operates Parkroyal Yangon and Pan Pacific Yangon, also predicts foreigners will follow in the footsteps of locals, who flock to beach destinations, such as Ngapali and Ngwe Saung – both a 45-minute flight from Yangon.
“These are undiscovered beach destinations that are popular with locals and soon-to-be discovered by tourists.”