A shortage of hotel rooms, plus widespread overcharging, threaten to damage the long-term future of the country’s tourist industry, observers are warning.
Last year, the number of tourists arriving in Myanmar reached a record one million. This compares to about 20 million people visiting Thailand. But there are only 27,000 hotel rooms in all of Myanmar, compared to more than 42,000 in Bangkok alone. The shortage of rooms has sharply driven up the rates that Myanmar hoteliers can charge.
“We face skyrocketing hotel room rates in every tourist destination here, but the facilities offered aren’t worth those rates. Hotels are really greedy. They charge US$150 a night for a room that’s worth only $40,” said the spokesperson from one travel company, who asked not to be named.
Complaints from travellers about poor facilities were increasing, causing potential damage to the image of the country, the spokesperson added.
Speaking of hotel accommodation in Nyaung Shwe resort, the vice chairman of Taunggyi Hotel Zone, U Win Oo Tan, said: “We need proper management immediately, in time, not only to deal with the hotel room shortage, but also for transportation charges from Heho Airport to Nyaung Shwe.”
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and Nyaung Shwe tourism authorities are allowing Myo Ma Yangon Monastery to host travellers, and the ministry is considering a “home stay” system in Nyaung Shwe.
“Nyaung Shwe has limited rooms, so we’ve negotiated with the monastery and regional authorities to put up tourists as a temporary measure,” he said.
About 1500 tourists visit Nyaung Shwe and Inle daily to occupy 1200 hotel rooms in 45 hotels and guest houses. Average hotel occupancy is 70pc.
Mr Suki Singh, of Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon, says local hotel standards should be improved. U Aung Kyaw Moe, of Queen Inn, Nyaung Shwe, said facilities there had been upgraded in accordance with the increased room rates. Hoteliers in Kalaw said this was the worst year yet for overcrowding. A spokesperson for Li Li Guest House in Kalaw said there were not enough budget hotels for foreign individual tourists.
“Five new hotels have opened here, but they all are for classic standard, not budget. For classic hotels, travellers have to pay at least $30 a night. Backpackers pay on average $20 a day for accommodation, food and trekking. They can’t pay $30 a night,” the spokesman said.
In Bagan, problems arise when daily tourist arrivals exceed 1000, said U Than Shwe, chairman of the Bagan hotel zone. Some tourists stay at monasteries because of the hotel room shortage.
“We encourage guest houses to upgrade their rooms,” said U Khin Aung Htun, a spokesperson for Myanmar Tourism Federation.
“There are eight guest houses that can upgrade and hope 50 rooms will appear this year. Bagan has about 2500 hotel rooms in 80 hotels. Hotels in Bagan reach 75pc occupancy a year. This month we received between 600 and 1000 arrivals a day. We can handle that, but if the numbers rise we will definitely need more rooms,” said a spokesperson for Kaytumadi Hotel in Bagan.
U Nyi Nyi, a tour guide who works in Nyaung Shwe, said: “I have seen so many backpackers staying at monasteries and restaurants. And when I stayed in Bagan recently I had to sleep in the lobby of a hotel.”
The Nyaung Shwe Tour Guide Association has built its own guest house for visiting guides because there are no rooms available.