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Bagan tourism set to soar under new govt

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Foreign visitors to the ancient city of Bagan could double by 2018, thanks in part to a smooth election and Myanmar’s improved international reputation, industry sources say.

About 250,000 tourists are estimated to have visited the site this year. But U Zaw Win Cho, chair of Bagan’s tour guide association, said he believes this could hit the half-million mark in two to three years.

The main reason, he said, is the impact of the impending change of government on Myanmar's international image. The National League for Democracy, led by international democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won the November 8 election in a landslide and will form a government and take office at the end of March.

“The election is successfully done and the country is changing with good potential for transparency. That is why we have a good image and can grow the tourism industry,” U Zaw Win Cho said.

Catering to the masses will not be without its challenges, he added, citing the need for more hotel rooms as a major priority for Bagan’s hospitality industry.

He points to regulatory reform as a key part of this process, saying it would be beneficial for the local economy for smaller-scale hotel operations to be permitted. “It can also improve local people’s businesses, and it will directly solve the accommodation problem,” he said.

A lack of suitable accommodation and high transport costs make Myanmar an expensive destination for package tourists relative to other ASEAN nations. This, U Zaw Win Cho said, could also hold the tourism industry back.

“The tourist will choose the cheaper country instead of Myanmar even if they would like to visit,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Bagan’s intake of tourists this season increased by 15 percent. It is also bullish about the industry’s prospects under the new government.

“The tourism industry will surely grow under the new government,” said U Myo Win Nyunt, a ministry director.

The tourism industry will still be impacted by external events, noted Daw Maw Maw Aung, proprietor of Bagan House Lacquerware. She cited as an example the recent terrorist attacks in France.

But she said she expected the NLD government would result in more investment in the sector, particularly if it overhauls the legal framework.

“The NLD government can enact the strong and exact laws for tourism. When the political situation is good, foreign investment will come to Myanmar,” she said.

By Ei Ei Thu | Monday, 04 January 2016
Credit : Myanmar Times

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