Tourism industry moving onwards amidst many challenges
By Khin Yanana, Photo: May Oo Moe
The government had already passed through its fourth year in office, and it is still in the process of overcoming many challenges in building a democracy federal Union and creating a better future, in accord with the aspiration of all the national people.
Of the government bodies that strove to improve the national image in their national economic development endeavours during the four year included the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MoHT).
A news team of the News and Periodicals Enterprise interviewed Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Ohn Maung and the experts of the respective fields as follows:
U Ohn Maung, the Union Minister
Question: Please explain the endeavours of the MoHT during the fourth year.
Answer: Myanmar saw 18 per cent increase in the tourist arrivals in 2017, 1.15% increase in 2018 and 23% increase in 2019. So the tourism sector saw annual progress. Independent Daily of Britain and Forbes magazine of the US featured a news report saying that according to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Myanmar was among the top countries enjoying rapid progress in the tourism sector.
Q: Please tell me about the Myanmar Tourism Law.
A: The Myanmar Tourism Law was enacted on 17 September 2018, and the orders in connection with the tourism industry and related businesses were issued on 14 March 2019. Powers were transferred to the tourism committees of Nay Pyi Taw and regions and states for the facilitation of the process in issuing permits and licenses in accord with the respective rules. The essence of the law is Decentralization. The National Tourism Development Central Committee was formed on 6 February 2019, and its 39 members include three experts of the private tourism sector and three representatives of tour guides association. Tourism Work Committee was then formed on 19 March 2019 with 32 members including five experts of the private tourism sector and five representatives of tour guides association. The participation of those experts and representatives in the committees has facilitated the process of issuing license for the newly established tour companies.
Q: About the progress of community-based tourism.
A: Community-based tourism (CBT) was launched in 2015. Nineteen CBT sites have been set up at 42 villages in Kachin State, Kayah State, Kayin State, Chin State, Shan State, Yangon Region, Mandalay Region, Magway Region, Taninthayi Region and Sagaing Region. Seven more CBT sites will be established at 10 villages. The MOHT issued the Myanmar Community Based Tourism Standards on 27 September 2019. According to the records, over 50,000 foreign and local tourists visited the CBT sites till December 2019.
Q: What are the important points in promoting the tourism industry?
A: We permitted visa exemption for Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions in 2018, and Visa on Arrival (Tourist) for China and India. In 2019, Visa on Arrival (Tourist) was granted to Italy, Spain, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Russia.
The MoHT permitted Visa on Arrival (Tourist) for Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Luxembourg and New Zealand in 2020. Thanks to the visa relaxations, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals increased to 750,000 in 2019 from 180,000 in 2016; the number of Japanese tourist arrivals increased to 130,000 in 2019 from 100,700 in 2016; the number of South Korean tourist arrivals increased to 120,000 in 2019 from 65,000 in 2016; the number of Indian tourist arrivals increased to 49,000 in 2019 from 38,000 in 2016; the number of Hong Kong tourist arrivals increased to 30,000 in 2019 from 1,000 in 2016; and the number of Macao tourist arrivals increased to 3,000 in 2019 from 92 in 2016.
Q: Any relaxations for new destinations?
A: A permission tour was permitted for Taunggyi-Kengtung-Tachilek routre in 2017. In 2018, Tachilek-Golden Triangle Area-Wanpon Jetty-Mongpong Sayadaw Monastery route, Tachilek-Tarlay-Parhlyo-Kenglatt route, Mekong River cruise, Hsipaw visit, and Laship-Hsipaw route were permitted. Visits to Kaythala mountain in Bilin Township, Kyaukpi and Kyauktaga pagodas, Myathabeil Pagoda in Thaton Township, a spring and salt field, the Death Railway Museum and Allied War Cemetery in Thanbyuzayet Township, Kyaikkhami Pagoda and Setsae beach were permitted in Mon State. Visits to Mogok were permitted under the supervision of Mandalay Region Government. Visits to restricted areas such as Dawtamagyi village and Htaykho village in Kayah State were permitted in 2019.
Q: What about the human resources in developing the tourism industry?
A: Human resources development of government and private bodies and the respective areas is important. So trainings and other arrangements have been made for its development. Various kinds of courses including hospitality, services and language proficiency courses have been conducted by the ministry and private organizations. Center for Tourism Development (CTD) was opened in Pabedan Township, Yangon, and it is conducting theoretical and practical lessons on tourism and hotels, apart from cooking courses.
Q: Can you tell be the increase in the number of hotels and tour-guides.
A: There were 1984 hotels and over 80,000 rooms in 2019 in the country, up from 1,432 hotels and 56,000 rooms in 2016. The number of tour services increased from 2,453 to 3,188 during the period. The population of registered tour-guides increased from 7,000 to 9,000 during the same period.
Q: About the digital marketing under the leadership of MOHT.
A: The country introduced the digital marketing system for the whole world to notice the safety and exoticness of Myanmar destinations in a short time. Under the system, MoHT installed system the website www.tourism.gov.mm where necessary information can be received in 11 languages – Myanmar, English, Korean, Japan, German, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italy and Russian. Over 230,000 persons from 198 countries visited the website.
A Tourism Web Portal https://tourisminmyanmar.com.mm has been posted as a medium between tour services and vacationers. Over 100,000 of 171 countries visited the Tourism Web Portal, where information will be also available in Korean, Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Russian and Italian languages in the near future.
Attracting visitors through online
Information about the destinations in Myanmar is being posted on the social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. The country posted 2,921 posts which were visited by nearly 2.7 million during the period from 2019 to 2020.
QR Code, Chat Bot and Digital Concierge are being used for the swiftness in distributing information and answers. Website Links in 11 languages are available at QR Code, dos and don’ts in four languages, travel advices in ten languages and maps of the most visited places can also be downloaded in PDF files. The Beta Version of the Digital Concierge has been test installed at the information counters in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Bago, Heho and Kanpetlet.
Q: What about the tourism development undertakings through international engagements?
A: We have held the Sakura Festival for four times for cementing Japan-Myanmar relations and increasing the number of Japanese visitors to Myanmar. In 2021, over 200 cherries will be planted in Hpa-an of Kayin State. MoHT signed MoU with Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports in 2017, an Action Plan with Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia in 2017, tourism cooperation agreement with Japan in 2018, and MoU with the ministry responsible for tourism of Nepal in 2019.
Q: What are the future mission and vision of the ministry?
A: The first step of the MoHT is the adoption of the Tourism Master Plan from 2020 to 2030. It is also developing the CBT villages to create new destinations and tours in regions and states through coordinated efforts. The ministry will cooperate with the relevant bodies in conserving the environment, serving the public interest and preventing the possible hazards against the industry, and will adopt a uniformed Hotel Guest List Management System to overcome the difficulties faced in conducting Sport Tourism and Gastronomy Tourism.
Naw Pan Thinza Myo (Minister of Kayin Ethnic Affairs of Yangon Region Government)
The uniqueness of Hotel Guest List Management System of Yangon Region
It is a paperless system that has reduced the cost from Ks 648 million to Ks 171 million. The system has reduced the staff cost by 74%. We can also decrease the expenditure for other matters from Ks 3185 million to 624 million. In the whole nation, we can save nearly Ks 4,000 million annually.
Challenges of the tourism industry
MoHT fetches over Ks 4000 million annually for the country. But the buget allotted for the industry’s extension is too small when compared with the neighbouring countries. Peace is required in extending destinations, especially in the remote ethnic areas.
Hotel Guest List Management System
It has been a common knowledge that information about the number of guests stayed at Kandawyi Hotel could not be received immediately when the facility was on fire. Although rescuers did their job best, nobody was sure whether they were guests left inside the hotel. The Hotel Guest List Management System can ensure greater safety for the guests. Under the system, authorities will collect the number of guests at the hotels in their jurisdiction.
U Hnaung Hnaung Han (Chairman of Union of Myanmar Travel Association-UMTA)
The association has organized a lot of fairs and exhibitions for the development of the industry.
In 2019, it held a tourism fair in Mandalay and organized the Myanmar tour exhibition Vietnam with the participation of the MoHT. The UMTS also held such fairs in Brunei and Mumbai of India. The association organizes talks on the industry, in addition to arranging loans for small and medium industries. We are going to rely more on the Digital Marketing in the coming years as Online Travel Agents have become more powerful.
Khon Tun Oo (Project Manager of PaO Region CBT)
We are trying to further improve the CBT we have started since 2015. CBT is an invaluable industry that is benefitting the villages much. Moreover, CBT has promoted the cultural conservation of the PaO area. It encourages young people to continue their studies. Moreover, local people have understood the importance of environmental conservation and sanitation and the systematic garbage disposal. (Translated by TMT)