American hotel operator Hilton Worldwide has expanded its presence in Myanmar, signing a contract to manage another five hotels following its entry to the country last year.
The Virginia-based Hilton will work with local firm Eden Group to manage two of its hotels, Thingaha Garden in Nay Pyi Taw and Thingaha Ngapali at the Rakhine State beach resort.
Both hotels will be rebranded as Hilton properties and are slated to receive their first guests later this year.
In addition to these two locations, Hilton said on June 11 that it expects to open the Hilton Bagan and Hilton Inle Lake in 2016 followed by the Hilton Mandalay in 2017.
“The introduction of five Hilton properties to the key destinations of Nay Pyi Taw, Ngapali, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake marks our commitment to Myanmar and we are pleased to be working with a partner of the experience and standing of the Eden Group to advance our footprint within this dynamic country,” Andrew Clough, senior vice president of development of Middle East & Asia Pacific for Hilton Worldwide, said in a statement.
The 200-room Thingaha Garden was due to open in time for the ASEAN Summit in May but is only now nearing completion.
Mr Clough said that there were only a small number of changes that need to be made to bring the property up the Hilton standards. The hotel is scheduled to open in time for the second ASEAN Summit of the year, to be held in November.
The Thingaha Ngapali, a 51-room beach front resort, is also undergoing upgrades.
The expansion announcement from Hilton comes despite ongoing delays in the opening of its first property in Yangon, following a deal announced last year.
In March 2013, Hilton reached an agreement with Thailand-based LP Holding to manage Hilton Yangon in Centrepoint Tower, a mixed-use project in the city’s downtown area. But progress has been slow on the 21-storey, 300-room tower at the corner of Sule Pagoda and Merchant roads.
Originally slated to open in March 2014, the company said in March that it was aiming for a partial opening of around 150 rooms by the end of the year. However, Mr Clough told The Myanmar Times the project had been again pushed back, with an opening now slated for 2015. The delays, Mr Clough said, are due to the complexities of the build out process on the tower, which has been under construction since the mid-1990s.
“Like everyone else, we would like to see that hotel open as soon as humanly possible,” he said.
The new projects come amid a tourism boom, with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism reporting that more than 2 million people visited Myanmar in 2013. While less than half arrived by air through Yangon, it has forecast 3 million visitors in 2014.
On the back of this growth, London-based research group World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said in a March report that earnings in Myanmar’s travel and tourism sector are set to grow 9.5 percent in 2014 to US$971 million.
“We see the market place in Myanmar offering compelling opportunities for many of our brands,” Mr Clough said. “We have been and continue to be on the lookout for further opportunities.”
Eden Group is one of Myanmar’s largest conglomerates and was founded by U Chit Khine, who serves as the company’s chairman, in 1990. It has interests in tourism, construction, banking, agri-business, petroleum products and trading.
The company is known for its close links to the government, having undertaken a range of building projects in Nay Pyi Taw for the previous military regime. These include the President’s Palace and the Defence Services Museum, which honours the Myanmar armed forces, or Tatmadaw.