The year 2018 was a challenging year for Myanmar’s tourism sector as Western tourist arrivals continued its downward trend, but the trade is hopeful that 2019 will mark a turnaround as the year started on a positive note with foreign investments and arrivals on the up.
Myanmar Tourism Marketing reported 160,000 tourist arrivals in January 2019, a 20 per cent year-on-year increase. Not only did overseas tourist numbers increase, the number of domestic tourists visiting sites as Bagan, Kalaw or Inle Lake saw double-digit growth, leading to fully booked hotels during Myanmar’s holiday periods.
International brands such as Courtyard by Marriott and Sheraton are set to open in Yangon. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has been appointed by Prime Residence to manage Rosewood Yangon, as the brand’s first property in Myanmar and seventh in Asia.
Meanwhile, in January, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) opened its newest chapter in Myanmar, along with plans to work on a variety of projects. These include a pavilion at the ASTA Global Convention in August and the Myanmar Road Show with activities including tourism education and training of US travel advisors.
Moreover, German wholesale company Metro this month announced its entry into Myanmar, allowing for greater trade engagements in the country that could contribute to economic growth in sectors such as agriculture, tourism and hospitality, said Philippe Palazzi, COO of Metro.
Also notably, the first Rakhine Investment Fair took place in Ngapali in February, where attempts were made to attract investors to join in the development of the state, especially its hotel and tourism sector. The fair was supported by the Myanmar Investment Commission and the Rakhine state government, and co-organised by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
“As the last frontier of South-east Asia, Myanmar presents immense potential for foreign investment. And we continue to believe that tourism is a good way to connect people and to bring development and peace all over the country for any race or religion,” said May Myat Mon Win, chairperson of Myanmar Tourism Marketing.
The country adapted the foreign investment law late last year and made it possible for foreigners to buy 35 per cent of shares of a local company, with industry-specific examples including local guesthouse, restaurant, bar or hotel.