- By Khin Maung Htay [Education]
Being a country in the ASEAN region, Myanmar has an area of 261228 square miles, consisting of the national population of over 50 million. The country with landslides of great beauty is surrounded by mountains, islands and coastal areas. Likewise the neighboring countries, it abounds with cultural heritages and religious edifices. It has many ancient pagodas, stupas, shrines and monasteries. Yet, sorrowfully enough, such a beautiful and pleasant country is found to have been in miserable states in fetching the national income from the sector of hotel and tourism industry, compared to that of the regional countries. This made me glance at the parts of the performances being carried out by the State Government. Tourism industry is in fact the 3rd biggest smokeless industry of the nation. For the multi-sector development the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism is leading to implement the tasks. Major project for tourism industry [2013-2018] will be adopted as the road map on the development of tourism industries. For all departments and organizations to join in the campaign “Policy on participation of social societies in Myanmar tourism industry,” had already been laid down. National strength“Sustainable Tourism a Tool for Development,” is the theme for this year. With a view to sustainable development implementations are being made in the following 5 sectors. 1. economic sector – to become a developed economic sector2. social sector – to create job opportunities with favorable conditions and to bring about giving authority to the local populace3. natural environment – to control climate changes and to conserve natural environment 4. cultural sector – to safeguard material and non-material cultural heritage cultures 5. peace sector – to essentially bring about peace for the national progressIn fact, aims, objectives and policies the government is practically implementing are excellent. Yet, compared to regional countries, income from tourism industry of Myanmar’s hotel and tourism industry stood next to last, followed by Brunei and Laos, according to the statistics in 2016, fetching $ 1.6 billion. Even Cambodia fetched US $ 3 billion in that period. Thailand stood first, fetching US $ 44.6 billion. Why did not Myanmar hotel and tourism industry succeed? It wholly depends upon the facts concerning to which extent aims and policies can be successfully implemented and how much studies can be made into the bottom level. Being fond of travelling the author did go about in Shan State and in Central Myanmar frequently. I myself welcomed the Visit Myanmar Year held in 1996, making trips occasionally in my leisure hours until now. Very recently, I paid a visit to Bagan, Nyaung-U and Poppa regions during the October School Holidays, after a long hiatus of several years. And, unexpectedly I got to Ngwe-Saung beach on the Full-Moon Day of Tazaungmone. Not long before, some of my close friends returned from Malaysia and Thailand, sharing their knowledge of foreign trips to me. While enjoying vicarious knowledge I am itching to make suggestions about Myanmar tourism.
Higher prices To put it in detail, as regards local tourism there will take a few pages. To briefly say about it, extension of roads cannot be made yet even in the frequently visited trips such as Ngwe-Saung and Chaung-Tha. Due to rough ground and narrow roads it takes too much time to get to the destinations. There are not enough lodging houses and hotels there. Hotels take too much prices for lodging but cannot give satisfactory services. Due to unavailability of rental of double-room, I myself had to hire a family room for 4 persons for one lakh kyats per day. In the immediate vicinity of the beach, sanitation was unsatisfactory. Eateries and restaurants are also demanding too much prices for cuisines they serve. In Nyaung-U some famous restaurants run short of food for guests, so they rush to food-stalls opened along roadside, after 8 pm.
Sea-breeze to breathe in As for the visitors who stay for a night at the hotel nearby the beach, they can enjoy breathing in the sea breeze. Although speed-boats, cycles and horses are available, it is too expensive to hire them. No foreigners apart from local visitors hire them for enjoyment from riding. In the day-time electricity is unavailable. Entertainment programs are not seen made. Failing that, unnecessary occurrences can happen.
Street food stallsAccording to my colleagues who recently returned from foreign trips to Bangkok and Malaysia, their stock reply to my enquiries is “Totally different in everything.” Thailand’s tourism fetched foreign income so much so that for their good services and their foods’ cheap prices and delicacy. The city abounds with street food stall. Hotels are also elite. The Emerald Pagoda is daily over-crowded with pilgrims all day long. Entertainment programmes are ubiquitous, taking a lot of people’s money. Everywhere we go in that country they take money from us whereas in our country every traveller can go about any places just paying the fees for the entrance into the zone.
Abundance of beautiful beachesAlong the 1800-mile-long coast there are beaches of great beauty. But, its amounts are only a few. Easily accessible beaches such as Ngapali, Chaungtha, Kantharyar, Ngwesaung and Setse are well-known. Due to efforts of local people some beaches and islands became known to the public in a few years ago. For example Goringyi island was targeted to implement as a hotel zone as for the department, due to the local people’s effort. I addition, there are many wonderful and beautiful islands in Dawei. Recently-known island is the Macked Island, where even sea mariners can call at the island. It has many characteristics. Travellers can go up by snookeling. There are nature-like bangalos. Also are Done Island, Done Waterfall, Natthameehla island, Hnaphethla island, Natthamee Yedwin island, Lay Island, Smart island, Hgnetthike island and Pearl island to visit.
Ancient cultural heritage in abundanceVisitors coming to Myanmar are not solely focusing on ancient cultural heritages. Some visit here to enjoy natural beauties of Myanmar, mountains, islands and beaches. Some people want to go up to hilly regions, with some just for merry-making. Some come here to study religious or cultural traditions. Myanmar has myriads of gifts of nature. Also are pleasant cities on hilly regions, mountain ranges of cool weather and pleasant views in Myanmar. Ancient cultural and religious heritages are ubiquities of the nation. Though being abundant of excellent beaches and beaches of good scenery, the government itself cannot find out them, as if being left neglected despite that there are sources which can get foreign exchanges. The lack of desires to pay a repeated visit to Myanmar in the minds of many visitors are in fact attributed many reasons—inefficiency of infrastructures and electricity, poor service, expensiveness and inconvenience of transport. As a result amounts of tourists did not increase as expected. They came to pay a visit to our country just as a mere visit here as they had never been to Myanmar. Until now, Myanmar tourism industry cannot yet persuade visitors to frequently come to Myanmar.
We have abundance of natural giftsFor the visitors who had come to Myanmar for the first time, they generally will not be satisfied with the trips because of the above-said inconveniences. So long as these weak points cannot be repaired, Myanmar hotel and tourism industry will still be seasonal industry likewise the local ones, rather than survival in the long run. Natural landslides of great beauty, mountains, rivers, creeks, springs, lakes, islands, beauty beaches, ancient cultural heritages are plentiful in the country, being the invaluable natural gifts. Without the skillful management of these resources, our country cannot keep up with even the country with the only largest religious monument Angkor Wat in earning the foreign income. In case hotel and tourism industries can be more developed with greater efforts it will be no problem for solving the national deficit or the foreign debts, not even if it did not keep up with the Thailand’s income from tourism industry— US $ 44.6 billion.
Translated byKhin Maung Oo