Jan 6, 2013

Myanmar likely to be new getaway destination in Asia: Travel portals

As Myanmar is inching towards a stable democracy, the country is once again becoming a preffered travel destination for Indians. Aung San Suu Kyi, the architect of political reconciliation in the South-east Asian nation, can be credited for this change of outlook towards Myanmar.

Major online travel portals and tour operators are hoping to make the most of this opportunity. Some reports suggest Myanmar will hold an international tourism conference in February this year.

According to Madhav Pai, director-leisure travel (outbound) at Thomas Cook, Myanmar offers unique potential — a delightful blend of history, culture and cuisine — for tourism.

"While we have always offered Myanmar, we are seeing increasing requests from customers this season. In fact, our luxury brand ‘Indulgence’ is currently planning an extensive leisure programme for a prestigious corporate family,” he said.

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (Iato), which has over 1,600 members, is in discussion with the Indian embassy in Myanmar and planning to take a delegation there. An Iato official said tourism in European countries had taken a severe beating due to the economic slowdown and people were giving thrust on regional tourism.

Till last year, Myanmar saw around 10,000 visitors from India, but this number can easily go up to 60,000 in the coming years, feels Iato. In Asia, Singapore is the biggest attraction for Indian tourists and close to 500,000 visit the country every year. “A lot of religion-based tourism potential is there. This growth would also mean India too will get more visitors,” said Gour Kanjilal, executive director at Iato.

Makemytrip.com co-founder and chief operating officer Rajesh Magow echoed Pai's view as he pointed out that lately, all stakeholders in the political process had spoken about welcoming tourists for the resultant economic benefit to Myanmar.

“Myanmar is also quite vocal on promoting ethical, or responsible tourism that focuses on harmonious co-existence rather than blatant commercialisation of natural resources and tourist attractions. We are closely watching these developments,” said Magow.

Suu Kyi, the face of modern Myanmar, visited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.in India last year, which was intended to strengthen relations between the two nations

Countries like Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal have also been attracting handsome numbers of Indian travellers. "A lot of businessmen and corporate houses are expanding their operation in Myanmar and this will have a positive effect,”added Kanjilal

The country was in a very volatile situation until Suu Kyi was released from her house arrest.The political environment is now becoming stable as the country looks to attain full democracy.

In November 2012, the US government also lifted a decade-old ban on most imports from Myanmar, ahead of a historic visit by President Barack Obama. The move was intended to support political reform in Myanmar, which can result in more global traffic entering into the country.

However, some also feel the Myanmar Tourism Board and government should be more active to promote their country, "The government of Myanmar also needs to be more active in promoting Myanmar tourism by media promotions and taking delegations to Myanmar Basically spreading the word around as much possible." said Manmeet Ahluwalia, head of marketing at Expedia (India).

Source: Business Standard