Floating in a balloon above the serene temples of Bagan, you would be forgiven for thinking Myanmar is the perfect tourism destination. But there are challenges to be overcome in terms of tourism infrastructure, accommodation and heritage management if the country it to seek its tourism sector goals.
The overall trend may be on the up. Short-term though, Myanmar may be falling short on its goals.
According to Ministry of Hotel and Tourism's statistics, 3.1 million tourists visited Myanmar for the first nine months of 2016, dropping by 6 percent compared to the same period in 2015. But the Ministry predicted in March that at least six million tourists would travel to Myanmar in 2016. In 2015, there were 4.68 million tourists visiting Myanmar, slightly below that year’s annual goal of 5 million.
Myanmar may be in a hurry to welcome visitors but one difficulty is diversity of accommodation, particularly options for backpackers, given certain restrictions on properties that can be used as guesthouses.
"I gave up my travelling plan because I can't afford a hotel room in Inle Lake," said Oana Maria Ghiorghilas, a backpacker from Spain expecting cheap accommodation. In Inle Lake, the minimum price of hotel per night per room is about 20 dollars.
She thought that it should have different types of hospitality including guesthouses to meet the demands from different tourists. "I can't find a cheaper guesthouse there," she added.
In fact, Myanmar government has banned foreign tourists from living in private homes since August 2013."Actually foreign tourists can live in guesthouses once the guesthouses registered a license from government," said Dr. Aung Myat Kyaw, having served as chairperson for the Myanmar Marketing Committee for nearly five years. "The government wants to formalize the hospitality market and maintain the service quality with licensing system."
But the licensing system does not work as well as expected. Compared to the figure for international standard hotels and local medium-size hotels, registered guesthouses are low in number.
"If guesthouses registered officially, they have to pay 25 percent profit tax. Some of guesthouses don't want to pay that," Dr. Aung Myat Kyaw said.
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