WASHINGTON, 23 May 2013: A key US senator on Tuesday backed moves to end to US sanctions on Myanmar after a landmark visit by the country’s reformist leader, signalling a new normalisation in relations despite rights concerns.
President Thein Sein, a general-turned-civilian who ended Myanmar’s long isolation from the West, met lawmakers at the US Capitol one day after the first White House summit by a leader of his country in nearly 50 years.
Senator Mitch McConnell, who has spearheaded Myanmar sanctions for the past decade over human rights concerns, said after his meeting that he would not support a renewal of a ban on imports from the country formerly known as Burma.
YANGON, 17 May 2013: Travellers who think they will be able to beat the fast food chains to Myanmar will need to think again. If the fast food chains are not already there they are clamouring at the door to set up shop as fast as possible.
Organisers of the MYANFOOD ’13 EXPO, an international food & drinks Show that will be hosted in Yangon, this November, identify what they call the fast-food revolution taking place in Myanmar right now.
They hope to canvass the food chains of Asia to attend and tap what is still an emerging market for the fast food boom.
BANGKOK, 15 May 2013: Nok Air plans to operate its first regionall flight connecting Thailand’s border town Mae Sot and Myanmar’s port Mawlamyine, later this year.
Nok Air chief financial officer, Vithai Ratanakorn, said the airline will operate service to Myanmar to tap the boom in business travel.
“According to the plan, we will serve the Mae Sot-Mawlamyine route in September and then Mae Sot to Yangon in October, while a Bangkok (Don Mueang) – Yangon route will start in November.”
YANGON, 7 May 2013: Myanmar’s government officials are talking optimistically about attracting 3 million international tourist arrivals by 2015 a sharp jump from slightly more than 1 million arrivals recorded in 2012.
According to Hotels and Tourism Minister, U Htay Aung, the details are in the draft Tourism Master Plan compiled by the Asian Development Bank and funded by Norwegian government that will be presented to the World Economic Forum (East Asia) scheduled to take place in Nay Pyi Taw in June this year.
The country claims it is packed with fresh tourism products and there is pent up travel demand after decades of sanctions that discouraged a healthy tourism growth. These factors will drive growth.
YANGON, 3 May 2013: Delays in granting hotels operating permits causes operational headaches and adds to administration costs for hoteliers opening properties in Myanmar.
Hoteliers say there are properties that can welcome tourists, but are still waiting for approval and essential documents from government departments to allow them to open. It was cited as one key factor that has caused supply to lag behind demand.
Local media claimed, earlier this week, that one hotel owner has been waiting a year for a permit in Bagan where there is critical shortage of rooms.
YANGON, 25 March 2013: Myanmar is running short of hotel rooms to meet growing demand mainly from regional visitors who are travelling beyond Yangon to visit Bagan and Mandalay.
Experts warn the wave of tourism and business related visit, could damage the country’s long-term aspirations as hotel rates rise to reduce competitiveness.
For the first time in the country’s history, tourist arrivals shot past the 1 million mark in 2012. The boom continues on the back of growing investment interest, but the country can only muster 27,000 hotel rooms in all categories across the entire nation. In contrast, Bangkok has at least 42,000 registered rooms and estimates put the figure closer to 70,000 when all available rooms including non-registered hotels and apartment blocks renting rooms by the day are included.
YANGON, 21 March 2013: Myanmar on Wednesday announced the abolition of its US dollar proxy currency, in the latest step towards economic normalisation.
More thanUS$30 million worth of Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) will be phased out of existence, Finance Minister Win Shein said in parliament, without giving a timeframe for the move.
The currency, introduced by the former junta two decades ago as an alternative to the US greenback — which it officially banned — is no longer required, he said.
CANBERRA, 21 March 2013: President Thein Sein on Monday became Myanmar’s first head of state to visit Australia since 1974, winning aid and defence concessions as he reaps new fruits of his liberalisation policies.
As the once pariah country approaches the second anniversary of a quasi-civilian regime led by the ex-general taking power, Canberra said it was increasing its support to recognise the reforms.
“As a close neighbour, Australia will benefit from a more open and prosperous Myanmar that is fully integrated into the region,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the country formerly known as Burma.
YANGON, 21 March 2013: Myanmar will allow tourists to exchange its kyat currency with two more foreign currencies; the Chinese yuan and Thai baht by the end of this month.
Currently, Myanmar’s state and private banks has an official exchange rate between kyat and the euro, US dollar and Singapore dollar.
The move will make it more convenient for Chinese and Thai travellers to exchange their currency in the country and will encourage them to spend more while visiting the country. In the past they needed to buy US dollars (fresh, clean notes) to exchange at Yangon Airport for Kyat.
YANGON, 14 March 2013: Myanmar should welcome around 1.3 million visitors this year on the back of a successful 2012 that saw the country pass the tourism milestone of 1 million international visits.
Commenting on the country’s tourism aspirations at the recent Myanmar Hospitality and Tourism Conference, Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism, U Htay Aung said: “We have reached a milestone of 1 million visitors in 2012 and expect to attract a further 30% more in the coming year…To meet demand we are developing and upgrading our infrastructure and tourism facilities.”
As of last year, the country had 787 hotels, 23 of them are five and four-star, but earlier this month, the US hotel chain Hilton confirmed it was entering the Yangon hotel market with a brand new five-star property due to open in 2014.