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Strike when the iron is hot: A report about Myanmar’s Hospitality & Tourism Conference 2014

March 15, 2014 Destination ASEAN, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Some 300 participants gathered at the Traders Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on February 18-19, 2014 to attend the 2nd annual Hospitality & Tourism Conference, which was organized by Sphere Conferences, Singapore and co-organized by the Myanmar Tourism Federation, as well as supported by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

It was up to H.E. U Htay Aung, Union Minister, Ministry of Hotel and Tourism, to give the opening address by mentioning the golden opportunities and potentials Myanmar offers in tourism being located between China and India. He also stressed the importance of Myanmar’s Tourism Master Plan, which runs between 2013 and 2020 to accomplish some 39 projects. In addition, Maung Maung Swe, Vice Chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, introduced the mission of his organization to promote Myanmar as a tourism destination, to help in the process of sustainable tourism development, to welcome and assist 250x250investors, and to develop human resources for tourism-related industries.

Strategic programs and activities in the hospitality and tourism sector were outlined by Daw Khin Than Win, Director, Tourism Promotion Department and Public Relations, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, referring to the vision that Myanmar will reach 7 million tourist arrivals in 2020, such as E-Visa, branding and marketing, while a representative from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, revealed some details of Myanmar’s Foreign Investment Law. So far, China is the largest investor in Myanmar, followed by Thailand and Hong Kong.

In the afternoon of the first day, Thomas Kyaw Min Htin, Executive Committee Member of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, singled out some new destinations in Myanmar for investment such as the Chin State with its capital Hakka, Putao in Kachin State, areas in Shan and Mon States, as well as beach tourism and river cruises. Also, there was a panel discussion on sustainability for long-term management, where Steven Schipani, Social Sector Specialist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), called the “heart” must go on to make Myanmar a better way to live and minimize environmental impact.

Later, there was a chance for interested participants of the conference to visit the small Myanmar Hotel Solutions, Food & Beverage Show held at the Myanmar Convention Center, Min Dhamma Road in Yangon, to source for the newest products from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan andThailand.

Before the gala dinner back at the Traders Hotel, there was an awards ceremony to name  Traders Hotel as Myanmar’s most outstanding one, Amazing Ngapali Resort as most sustainable one, Yangon’s Padonmar Restaurant as best one, and Asian Trails as the best travel agency in Myanmar.

The second day of the conference saw the keynote panel discussion on developing strategies to reduce the human capital gap faced by the hospitality industry moderated by Daw Kyi Kyi Aye, Senior Consultant, Myanmar Tourism Federation. Also, CEO Charles Blocker, IC Partners Thailand, highlighted the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a “hot” investment area. There followed a local hoteliers sharing session on getting familiarized with the Myanmar hospitality industry to underline the importance of the quality of services, as well as a panel discussion on strategies to help small and medium hotel establishments enhance their offerings in a competitive market.

The successful conference ended in the afternoon of February 19 with the spotlight on new and emerging trends and projects within theMyanmar hospitality sector. So, John Farrell, Director of the Myanmar Yacht Services, introduced the Myeik Archipelago as Asia’s next tourism frontier to explore, but warned that access to the islands will be one big challenge because of safety, pollution and bad weather most of the year. Arild Molstad from Norway, Director of Partnership for Change, talked about Inlay Lake in Shan State, which becomes a model for private-public community partnership and has the potential to develop into a world heritage site.

The Closing Conservation, brilliantly moderated by Jehan Wick, General Manager of Yangon’s Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, finally postulated that government officials and investors should “strike when the iron is hot” and going on from here instead of wait and see. Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, Joint Secretary General, Myanmar Tourism Federation, even admitted that Myanmar’s tourism industry is still in its infancy and “finding your own niche” is still possible. Education is most important and this was also the point of Achim Munz, who attended the conference as a resident representative of the German Hanns Seidel Foundation, Myanmar.

The closing remarks were given by U Aung Zaw Win, Director General, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, and it was announced that the next 3rd Hospitality & Tourism Conference under the theme “New Frontiers” will be held in Nay Pyi Taw in January 2015 in conjunction with the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) on January 22-29, 2015.

Written by : Reinhard Hohler

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