By Khin Yadana, Photos: Aye Than
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is tremendously beneficial to the nation’s economy both directly and indirectly. Since the new administration in office, there has been increase in the number of tourists every year into the country. The news team met with the Union Minister U Ohn Maung to inquire about the progress throughout the 3rd year of incumbent government.
Q: Can you explain to us about the Tourism Law?
A: Yes, the Myanmar Hotels and Tourism Law was passed on 17th September 2018, creating the much needed committees with the help of the Office of the Union Attorney General and several other ministries and departments. The Region and State administrations are also given more autonomy to help with further delays for businesses. Businesses can also get temporary licenses as well. With the creation of the Tourist Committees, we are working towards proper transfer of responsibilities for granting permits and licenses from the regional authorities.
Q: What about efforts towards Digital Marketing?
A: Because we are in the age of Information Technology, online promotion is crucial in trying to advertise and attract tourists. The Ministry’s website is available in 10 languages which is monitored by the Digital Marketing Task Force. Digital Concierge systems are installed throughout the country at information counters in the Ministries. We are also building a Tourism Web Portal to be launched soon. The Look West Policy was introduced as well through TTG Asia. The Ministry met with Polish government officials to collaborate with their Chamber of Tourism to increase tourism between the countries. We are also launching a B2B campaign so more tourists are aware of Myanmar and all it’s got to offer.
Q: Are there any restrictions that are being relaxed to attract more tourists?
A: This isn’t something that can be accomplished with the Ministry’s efforts alone. There are a lot of related ministries involved such as opening places tourists can access, relaxing some financial barriers for the tourists and other aspects for ease of travel. Because of the relaxed visa restrictions, we had more tourists from the ASEAN+3 countries. There were some downward trends but it got progressive further into 2018. In the first two months of 2019, we had an increase of 23% with the trend going upwards.
This is not only due to the effort of the Ministry but all respective ministries and stakeholders as well.
Q: What are some popular tourist entry points?
A: One big advantage of Myanmar is that we are not a landlocked country and have a plethora of landscapes and culture to experience. You can enter the country through international waters or via flight or by crossing the land border. We are planning to get Heho, Kawthoung and Mawlamyine airports as CIQ airports for domestic-international transfers soon. In addition to flights, there are multiple border checkpoints such as Tachileik, Kawthoung, Myawaddy, Tamu and Htee Kee where you can enter Myanmar via land. The Thilawa, Bo Aung Kyaw and Kawthoung ports also allow passengers to enter Myanmar via sea. There are also plans to get Ngapali and Kyaikame beaches for entry as well. The Ministry also sent representatives to attend the ITB Berlin 2019 in March to learn more about ways we can accommodate travelers from Europe.
Q: What about human resource development?
A: The Hotels and Tourism industry is for capability building of workers. Hence, there are training schools according to their sections in collaboration with others. Within the 3rd year, we had over 191 students graduate as tour guides from the Training school in Yangon alone with 916 more in various states and regions. For hospitality training, the ministry had over 22 cohorts with 1972 graduates in the previous year.
There were also 6832 students posted for On the Job Training at various locations Development Workshops as well as language classes with various governments. For instance, the Colombian Government had 2 training courses for 114 students on Spanish lessons and Chinese classes with the help of the Chinese Embassy. Other capability training such as the Capacity Building and Technical Assistance on Public Private Partnerships in the Tourism Sector in collaboration with GIZ was pretty successful as well as Tourism Foundation Courses with other organizations. A conference was also held in late 2018 to discuss about the improvements we can make to the tour curriculum.
Other partnerships for capability includes hospitality management trainings with Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency, healthcare in the tourism sector with Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Federation and Tour Hosting classes with Swisscontact. The Partnership for Change project with Norway also trained 1868 students in computing, English and other service training.
Q: Any other partnerships?
A: Television Broadcast Limited from Hong Kong recently visited Myanmar to showcase various spots in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Pyin Oo Lwin, Inle, Nyaung Swe and Kyaiktiyo. The Ministry made sure to support them during their travels. Wan Jing Tai is also filming all over the country from Kayin, Kachin to Taninthayi Region. ABC TV joined with the Japanese diplomat in 2018 to shoot the scenes across Bagan for tourism promotion in Japan. We are working with NGOs as well through partnerships.
Q: What are some other additional efforts to boost tourism in Myanmar?
A: In September 2018, we celebrated World Tourism Day with the slogan “Tourism and the Digital Transformation”. CNN also conducted a CNN Task Nation Branding Masterclass for Myanmar. Lastly, the Adventure Bagan temple Marathon was a huge success thanks to the partnership between Myanmar Voyages International Tourism and Denmark based Albators Travel. Translated by Myat Thu