Recently, an article “11 Places to Go in 2014” was published in CNN (Cable News Network) and Myanmar is on the list. According to the article, Myanmar has been touted as "the next big tourism destination" for a few years already, but getting around the country has proved tricky.
Before 2014, ATMs in Myanmar have been absent or limited to locals only, the network here did not provide adequate coverage; the basic telephone services were patchy; three-quarters of the population lacked access to electricity in Myanmar and travel was restricted to only a few places.
However, Myanmar started to change already, and next year it's going to accelerate. "The Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism have prepared a 'Master Plan' and 'Responsible Tourism Policy' to map out the future of tourism in the country," says Professor Donald E. Hawkins, Eisenhower Professor of Tourism Policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., whose remarks were quoted by CNN in the article.
He also added, "The goal in 2014 is to maximize tourism's contribution to national employment and income generation while ensuring the social and economic benefits of tourism are distributed equitably."
Welcome "You" with Open Arms
The development of tourism and economy has promoted each other and become one of the pillar industries in ASEAN countries as well as the stepping stone for regional economic cooperation. Myanmar covers an area of 678,500 square kilometers with a coastline of 3200 kilometers, whose tourism market holds tremendous potential. If it were exploited better, it would become an essential step to revitalize domestic economy and strengthen its soft power.
In recent years, Myanmar has adopted more liberal policies, opened its door to tourists and investors and committed to joining the world. Currently, businessmen with the invitation letter from the company in Myanmar would be granted visa on arrival in Yangon International Airport. The visas will be available to 27 nations, including America. $50 will be charged for the business visa for 70 days.
On September 26, 2013, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh signed the agreement on visa exemption for ordinary passport holders between the two nations in New York. By October 2013, Myanmar has realized the visa exemption with Vietnam, the Philippines and Lao PDR.
On October 10, 2013, Myanmar President U Thein Sein received the ASEAN Gavel from Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei Darussalam during the Closing Ceremony of the 23rd ASEAN Summit, symbolizing Myanmar will chair ASEAN in 2014. Myanmar has set the theme for 2014 ASEAN Chair as “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community”. According to President U Thein Sein, Myanmar will take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate to the world the achievements of reforms it has made in recent years.
During its term in 2014, Myanmar will make great efforts to implement the visa exemption with all fellow ASEAN members. In the future, Myanmar will further enhance its friendship and cooperation with other countries and promote regional peace and development as its economy opens up gradually.
Tourism Industry Enters a Brand New Era
Myanmar has long been viewed as a mysterious country and the outside world know a little about this reclusive nation due to its isolation for over half a century. On December 28, 2011, Myanmar was rewarded as the world’s third best travel destination for 2012 by CNN. The list was based on the recommendations of Lonely Planet and other travel institutions, claiming that Myanmar is an untapped pure land with the kindest and warmest people.
Since October 1st, 2012, Myanmar reopened some areas to foreign visitors, such as Rakhine state, Kachin state and Shan state. It is said that both Mrauk Oo and Sittwe (Rakhine state) are hot attractions for foreign tourists. A tourist who has been to Myanmar commented, “Myanmar is the most mysterious and beautiful country in Southeast Asia.”
Buddhism in Myanmar is practiced by 89% of the country's population, which exerts a subtle influence on the people. Tourists favor Myanmar’s unique tranquility and leisure. Since 2012, the number of tourists has greatly growing in the areas like Pegu, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake. Visitors to Bagan and Mandalay amounted to more than 150,000 from January to August, 2012.
Myanmar’s affluent tourism resources and unique customs charm a large number of tourists. Besides, more investors are also coming. It will be a wise choice for those who travel to Myanmar during the Spring Festival because of the natural landscapes and tranquil atmosphere there. In the eyes of tourists, Myanmar keeps the most original flavor. The unfrequented and old Bagan city; the vast and quiet beach; the simple and natural ethnic group living on water and the magnificent and solemn Shwedagon Pagoda all well demonstrate the confident and low-key Myanmar. China, as the potential largest consumer of tourism for Myanmar, is warmly welcomed by its neighbor Myanmar.
The sincere attitudes of service staffs, undisturbed tourism atmosphere and friendly cultural environment attract a constant swirl of Chinese visitors. Liu Wei, who has traveled to Myanmar said, “It gives us a real taste of travel and leisure. Within days, staying here does help refresh my body and mind. The sea is outside the villa door. You can just lie on the beach and having fun. Also, you don’t have to worry that some one will capture you in his/her camera. The vendors are honest and nobody has ever been stolen here. Hotel attendants take good care of every guest and remind us to take the right vehicle.”
“You have to prepare for all kinds of possibilities once you decided to set food on this nation, many international practices won’t work in Myanmar, despite that, you can still have a wonderful journey. Myanmar is a nation which fascinates explorers,” said a bunch backpackers who just finished their adventure in Myanmar, “You better go travel when Myanmar is still native and natural.”
The world has responded Myanmar’s opening up with its embrace to Myanmar. Leaders of different countries and heads of global organizations have paid visits to Myanmar in recent years, the United States and European countries have lifted or alleviated economic sanctions against Myanmar. In the mean time, many foreign enterprises have set eyes on this market of great potential.
Ever since the new government was set up, Myanmar has witnessed rapid growth in economy and society. Tourism has also enjoyed an unprecedented growth with inbound tourists on the rise and hotels and restaurants springing up increasingly. And the Myanmar government is making plans to build more hotels in Yangon, Mandalay, and around the Inle Lake, and is trying to attract more foreign investment, which shows Myanmar’s ambition to develop its tourist industry. 2014, let’s go to Myanmar !