by Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai
Myanmar’s tourism industry is on the rise with tourist numbers expected to reach the one million mark by the end of the year.
According to Union Minister U Htay Aung, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, more than one million tourists will arrive in the country by the end of December, with 400,000 entering the country from land border gateways.
Most of the country’s international visitors come on business trips to the country’s commercial capital Yangon. According to the minister “Yangon International Airport has been receiving an average of 2,300 visitors daily.”
Home to more than 20,000 Buddhist temples and stunning landscapes, Myanmar’s tourism sector has benefited from recent political reforms and especially the by-elections held this year. In comparison, there were over 800,000 arrivals in 2011, up 1.27 per cent from over 790,000 in 2010. Visits to Myanmar jumped by 37.5 per cent during the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
As the country welcomes an increasing number of tourists after years of military rule, the industry experts have expressed concern on the hotel room shortage and the lack of transport infrastructure.
Recent data shows that there are around 448 hotels offering a total of 19,014 rooms in major tourist destinations, such as Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Taunggyi and Inlay Lake.
“We need to upgrade service standards, transportation and also upgrade existing hotels and tourist sites including opening new tourist sites,” the minister said.
As part of the plans, the country is planning a new international airport near Bago north of Yangon, and Yangon is allowing investors to convert apartment buildings to hotels, adding more than 500 rooms this year.