BERLIN, 9 March 2023: Khiri Travel, a major destination management company in Southeast Asia, says it is time to return to Myanmar after a pause following the military coup that swept aside the democratically elected government on 1 February 2021.
According to an announcement posted on its website and timed to coincide with the opening of ITB Berlin on 7 March, Khiri Travel says it “retained staff there throughout the Covid tourism shutdown and despite the military coup.”
The company’s founder, Willem Niemeijer, opened the office in Yangon in 2011 and established what is flagged as a “sustainable” Myanmar DMC that “believes travel is a force for good.”
For 2023, Khiri Travel says it is once again offering package tours to Myanmar, and it is not alone. A check of popular DMC websites such as Asian Trails, Exo Travel and Discova shows they, too, have Myanmar tours on offer. Few, if any, bookings have materialised since the military coup in 2021. Diethelm Travel flags Myanmar tour opportunities as “TBA” on its website. Destination Asia removed Myanmar from its drop-down list of countries featured on its website in mid-April 2021 with no further updates. It concentrates on selling tours to four Mekong region countries Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Khiri Travel’s announcement presents the familiar justification for doing business in Myanmar post-military coup.
“We recognise the undesirable humanitarian and political situation in Myanmar. However, we believe Khiri Travel can and should be able to organise trips into Myanmar, as it will help bring at least a small degree of income and hope to local people. Arranging any trip to Myanmar does not imply tacit approval of the ruling regime.”
According to the announcement, Khiri Travel will limit the number of Myanmar destinations on its books to the classic old favourites – Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali Beach and Wa Ale in the Mergui Archipelago.
It lays down the ground rules.
It will only offer trips to the ‘core’ tourist destinations mentioned above for safety reasons.
Khiri and its overseas partners will familiarise guests with their governments’ latest travel advisories.
Guests must buy adequate travel insurance.
Wrapping up its announcement Khiri pledges “only to run trips that, to the greatest extent possible, help local small and medium-sized businesses and independent guides in Myanmar.” Critics will point out that it is almost impossible to ensure tourist dollars will not feather the military junta’s nest. The military’s tentacles extend to every facet of tourism earnings, from airlines and hotels to travel companies, ports and airports services and the vast and lucrative gems and casino ventures.
Since the military coup in February 2021, Myanmar’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis has escalated, with reports indicating nearly 3,000 citizens were killed, about 17,000 detained, and more than 1.5 million displaced.