Military calls up retired minister

YANGON, 9 August 2021: Myanmar’s military junta named U Htay Aung as the new minister of hotels and tourism at the weekend, recalling him from retirement.

The announcement was made on national TV, and his name was added to the minister’s list on the Ministry of Information’s website almost immediately. He replaces U Maung Maung Ohn, who is now the minister of information. Maung Maung Ohn was appointed on 7 February and was ostracised by the travel industry in the wake of the 1 February military coup.

U Htay Aung returns from retirement

U Htay Aung, a former minister of hotels and tourism from 2012 to 2016, during the government of President Thein Sein, comes out of retirement to serve in the military junta after decades of representing the country’s tourism within ASEAN’s tourism community.

Travel observers who keep a close eye on Myanmar called the appointment a smart military manoeuvre to mend bridges with the tourism and hospitality industry. However, the country’s travel and hospitality industries remain appalled by the military coup and the ongoing violent crackdown that opponents call “military terrorism.”

All these mixed emotions could backfire on the affable minister as he attempts to reach out to the country’s tourism community and regional tourism leaders.  However, even if his appointment risks him losing the respect of his peers in ASEAN’s travel community, he has time on his side to win over his critics. The military junta’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, has confirmed he will call national elections in August 2023, which suggests  U Htay Aung’s role will be to steady the tourism ship until a quasi-elected government takes over the wheel when he could resume his retirement.

Born in 1951, the former army captain, U Htay Aung, joined the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism in 1992 as assistant director and moved up to deputy director (1993-95) and director (1995-97). In 1997, he became General Manager of Myanmar Hotels and Tourism Services and 2002 its managing director.

Between 2004 to 2011, he was the director-general of the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism. In 2011, he was named Vice-Minister for Hotels and Tourism and appointed Union Minister of Hotels and Tourism as of August 2012.

He received his MSc degree in Hotels and Tourism Management from George Washington University, the US, in 1991 and a PhD degree in Literal Arts from Mae Fah Luang University, Thailand, in 2016.

(Source: Wikipedia and Travel Impact Newswire’s tourism executives historical profiles).