Some insiders are philosophical even as Myanmar is faced with international arrivals that are falling flat.
Myanmar has a serious problem with oversupply, as a tide of hotels continues to open while arrivals fall flat.
What appeared to be severely limited room supply as the sudden tourist boom took hold in the country between 2011 and 2013 triggered a surge in interest from investors looking to fill the gap.
The rush to invest was fuelled by a tourism masterplan issued by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in 2013 to attract 7.5 million international visitors by 2020.
But Yangon International Airport saw only 5.9 million passengers in 2017, 66% of whom were international, TTG Asia reports. This is 8.5% more than in 2016 but far from the predicted growth.
The allure of Myanmar has been tainted by the widely reported plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, in what has frequently been described as the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.
“There will be an undersupply of tourists,” says Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Myanmar. “For example, Bagan had 380,000 tourists last year. That’s nothing. We need to get more tourists to these destinations.”
Stats show that Myanmar had 1,628 hotels and guesthouses, with 65,470 rooms, in March. More will open this year.
“Many of these hotels thought tourism was going to boom,” said Bertie Lawson of Sampan Travel. “[It didn’t happen] and it’s causing a lot of stress for hoteliers.”
But some in the industry remain positive. Su Su Tin, managing director of the Sanctum Inle Resort and Yangon Excelsior Hotel, due to open in July, said the result will be more competitive prices, attractive packages and better-quality services.
Others agree, saying that the pause will give shoddy infrastructure time to catch up.
“If we suddenly have a load of five-star hotels cropping up, it will change the landscape. I am confident the situation will balance out in the future, but these new destinations need to be planned properly,” said May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism’s marketing chairperson and general manager of the huge Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon.