The Buzz on Burma

Posted by - February 24, 2012 | Category: Asia, Escapes



Myanmar’s been getting a lot of attention these days, and for once, it’s in a good way. The recent government reforms are leading to a kinder, gentler Burma and The Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is engaging in a big push for more tourists – their goal is to hit 1 million visitors in 2012. The problem? Not enough hotel rooms.

The BBC notes in their recent story Is Burma Ready for Foreign Investment that some hotels are currently at over 90% capacity. That’s up from about 65% since the historic elections back in November.

At the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Manado, Indonesia in January, Phroe Wai Yarzar, Secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Board said that hotels in Burma were booked until March – that’s every single hotel room in the country booked 2 months in advance. He had plenty of other interesting facts about Myanmar to share as well. 

Manado Indonesa TRAVEX ATF2012 Myanmar Media Briefing from Phroe Wai Yarzar, Secretary of Myanmar Tourism Board

Much of the Myanmar Tourism Board’s presentation centred on how they plan to remedy that. It included several slides on construction projects currently underway to increase between 5 and 10 percent the number of licensed hotels, motels, and guesthouses in the country by year end. There are currently 691 hotels with 23454 rooms.

The thing is, building a hotel doesn’t happen overnight. So even with the projected 5 to 10 percent increase, it may not be enough to keep up with demand. Yarzar also mentioned something that appeared to be a complete shift in thinking from the old regime – the possibility of amending the law to allow for homestays in Myanmar. They are currently illegal in the country, but could be an quick win to shift the burden away from hotels. And a boon for independent travellers seeking enriching, and budget-friendly, experiences.

Will the Myanmar government actually allow homestays? We’ll see. But since Myanmar was listed as number 2 in Lonely Planet’s Top Countries for 2012 they are going to need all the help they can get.

You can see the Myanmar Tourism Board’s full presentation here:

Further resources:

  • For free downloadable PDF guides on Myanmar, check out:
  • For a free DVD and customized free tour information, visit: Myanmar Travel Information

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39 comments - add one
    1. Even if you’re a hotel worker — apparently it’s so competitive to retain qualified staff that they are even offering incentives for hotel workers to keep them…

    1. That’s a great question and I’m wondering the same thing.

      I think it would be fantastic if they *did* legalize homestays – I can’t think of a better way to get an insight into what life is like there – experiencing authentic food, conversations with the hosts etc – so much better than staying in a hotel!

      1. From what I’ve read (and there isn’t a lot of info available), it had to do with the previous regime — staying with locals tourists would get an idea of what life was really like for the Burmese, and that’s not something the government at the time wanted to share with the rest of the world.

    1. The presentation from Myanamr at ATF2012 was basically a plea for foreign investors — they can’t do it as quickly as they need to on their own. The Myanmar Tourism Board website even has an “Invest with Us” link… 🙂

  1. I agree with Abby that it is fascinating to witness a country go through this, but you’re right that it doesn’t happen overnight. The #2 ranking in LP will help. Let’s hope for that amendment for homestays.

  2. Granted it was a long time ago–’98 I think, but at that time there was quite a bit of budget accommodation available. Has that changed?

    1. I think now that the country has opened up, the budget hotels are filled to capacity as well. At least that’s the impression Myanmar’s Tourism Secretary gave.

    1. What surprised me was how low the number of visitors is when compared to some of Burma’s neighbouring countries. It’ll be hard to handle the crowds if they cannot get outside investors to help.

  3. Indeed, it would be nice to see this country do something progressive for once. Also, being able to arrive and use an atm machine as opposed to stuffing money under the mattress at night would be a welcome change too 🙂

      1. ATMs exist – its just that overseas cards don’t work in them because of the international banking embargo of Myanmar. That’s why you can’t use credit cards either.

  4. I’ve love to visit actually and I’m not that far away now! But I HATE having to apply for visas. If these people really want tourists, why can’t the cut the red tape and just let you do it on entry??

    1. The Myanmar Tourism Board secretary did mention that there were discussions about broadening the Visa On Arrival program, but for now, it’s only available to folks flying in on package tours.

  5. I wish I hadn’t skipped Burma while I was in the neighbourhood it really seems like an interesting country, I did visit it twice from Thailand on a visa run, but that doesn’t really count.

    I do agree with Nomadic Samuel thou, they do need some ATMs to make travellers lives easier. There is still a lot they need to do.

  6. Good for Burma! I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction, and it would be good for locals and tourists to have meaningful conversations together.

    1. I know when did a homestay in Thailand I learned a lot more about the locals than if I had stayed in some stuffy hotel. Even if I didn’t speak the language, the guide I had was able to fill me in on so much…

  7. In January we contacted a couple of companies in Burma and they told us not to bother visiting until late March as the country simply had too many tourists at the time.

  8. I have my eye on Burma!!! Now that I’m living in South Korea it’s one of the main destinations I want to go to. There are so many parts of the country that remain vastly unexplored. I can hardly wait to set my own two feet there! 😀


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