Since 2011, tourism in Myanmar grew rapidly. One million tourists visited the country in 2011 and more than three million did in 2017. The Tourism Master Plan 2013-2020 came to life to develop Myanmar’s tourism industry, create jobs and attract more international tourists. Hilton and Best Western are investors in Myanmar and foreign investment in Myanmar’s hotel and tourism industry amounted to $2.6 billion in 2017.
Tourism Master Plan
There are six strategy programs in Myanmar’s Tourism Master Plan. The strategies involve strengthening the institutional environment, building human resource capacity and promoting service quality, strengthening safeguards and procedures for destination planning and management, developing quality products and services, improving connectivity and tourism-related infrastructure and building the image, position and brand of Tourism Myanmar.
The Master Plan set a high target of attracting 3.01 million international visitors in 2015 and 7.48 million in 2020. Myanmar surpassed its goal in 2015 by attracting 4.6 million international visitors. More than 500,000 tourists arrived from Thailand and China in 2018.
An estimated 804,000 jobs in 2016 were from the travel and tourism sectors. In 2012, before the plan was enacted, there were 293,000 tourism-related jobs. Investment in the industry creates employment for those seeking to exit poverty, as unskilled workers in rural areas now have opportunities for employment in the developing tourism industry. About 40 percent of the poor reside in rural regions. Poverty reduced from 48 percent in 2015 to 25 percent in 2019. Part of this huge decrease in poverty is due to growing industries such as tourism.
Myanmar’s tourism and hotel sector received $2.6 billion in 2017 from foreign investors, which indicated increased interest relating to tourism in Myanmar. The main investor was Singapore, which is on Myanmar’s list of its top ten tourists by nationality. A $63 million venture between Myanmar’s KMA Hotel Group and Thailand’s Centara Hotels and Resorts to develop a hotel chain is one direct flow into the industry. Many other projects were created to compensate for the tourism boom.
Training in Tourism
Since tourism in Myanmar increases exponentially, it is expanding educational programs to teach skills necessary for working in the tourism and travel industry. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s (MOHT) Tourism and Training School offers classes for tour guide training and tourism management. The MOHT also partnered with the Ministry of Education to offer a four-year degree in tourism at two colleges, the National Management Degree College in Yangon and Mandalar Degree College in Mandalay.
Almost 400 students earned a master’s degree in Tourism Studies and Management from Yangon University since its inception in 2015. The program accepts 60 students per year. The Hospitality Training School opened in 2016 and offers courses relating to housekeeping, front office and food and beverage.
Myanmar Tourism Bank
The Myanmar Tourism Bank opened in Yangon this year to provide long-term, long-cost loans to the tourism and hospitality sector. It is also the first bank in the country dedicated solely to the sector. It offers most services provided by commercial banks. The bank is yet another way Myanmar plans to stimulate investment in the tourism industry, particularly by smaller operators that desire to benefit from the rapid growth.
Growing Tourism Industry
Myanmar received 2.4 million visitors in the first five months of 2019, which is its strongest year since 2015. The current tourism boom shows promise for tourism in Myanmar. Job creation, increased GDP and reduced poverty are all positive effects of the growing tourism industry.
– Lucas Schmidt