Thursday, August 17, 2017

Amid tourism dip, ministry urges tour packages for Nay Pyi Taw

Tourism figures are down compared to this time last year, officials say, apparently as a result of the troubled security situation in many parts of the country. Ministry of Hotels and Tourism director U Myint Htwe said that between January and the end of September 2015, about 3.3 million tourists had visited Myanmar. The comparable figure for this year is just about 3.1 million.

U Myint Htwe was speaking to The Myanmar Times about the ministry’s attempt to urge travel companies to steer more visitors to Nay Pyi Taw as a “green city”. The capital is also home to the hluttaw complex, is amply stocked with first-class hotels and convention centres, and boasts high-grade infrastructure and easy access to the surrounding countryside.

Efforts to promote the capital as a tourist draw over the past few years have not been entirely successful.

“We want tour companies to add Nay Pyi Taw to their itineraries when they offer packages and caravan tours. Attractive sites include a safari, ethnic villages and the hluttaw,” said U Myint Htwe.

International flights arrive direct to the city’s airport, he added.

“We already offer a permit to allow tourists to sightsee around the hluttaw, but it takes a week to get permission. That’s why we’ve asked travel companies to arrange a stay of at least one or two nights in Nay Pyi Taw,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital on September 28, on the eve of World Tourism Day, U Tint Thwin, director general at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said Nay Pyi Taw had a lot to offer both foreign and local tourists. A marketing team is to boost efforts to promote the capital as a location for MICE - meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, he said.

Industry professionals seem willing to give it a try. U Ye Tun Oo, CEO of Vivo Myanmar travel and destination management company, told The Myanmar Times, “Nay Pyi Taw could be a tourist destination, but the government has to do more to popularise it. Because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is our country’s icon, people could be interested in touring the hluttaw,” he said, adding that the government would have to improve human resources capacity.

A tour of the halls of parliament, with the lure of catching a fleeting glimpse of the state counsellor, might not be enough, however.

U Kyaw Min Oo, managing director of Equalink travel and tours, said, “Nay Pyi Taw doesn’t have much to offer tourists. They could arrange a cultural show of all races, and opera. Going around the hluttaw won’t take long. We have to think about what could be added to attract tourists.”

U Myint Htwe admitted his department faced an uphill battle. “Tourist numbers have fallen compared to last year because of the country’s security situation, so we expect to fall below this year’s target of about 5.5 million tourists by the end of this year,” he said.