River cruise gains steam in Myanmar

Cruises on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin are emerging

As Myanmar becomes an increasingly popular tourist destination, river cruises along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin have become a travel segment for buyers and sellers alike, TTG Asia reports.

“We are seeing about a 50% increase in demand for river cruises over the last two years,” said Swe Swe Myint, managing director, Legendary Myanmar Travel and Art. “We used to operate with just two cruises, but now we have expanded to five. The demand is coming strongest from European and American visitors, who are keen to view the daily lifestyles on riverbanks, experience parties on sandbanks and spot the Irrawaddy River dolphins.”

Thomas Carnevale, managing director of Asian Trails Myanmar, said that while ocean cruising might have reached its limits in Myanmar due to limited port facilities, the country’s river cruise market is “still in its infancy and further growth can be expected, especially from the US and Australia”.

Cruise lines are responding to this demand, with an influx of boutique vessels set to make their debut in the next two years. AmaPura and Sanctuary Ananda will begin sailing in November this year, while Avalon Myanmar and Shin Arahan will debut in 2015.

“All vessels are full until March 2015,” said the general secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, U Naung Naung Han. “[In fact], tour operators need to pay deposits of between 50% and 100% when making bookings.”

However, Myanmar’s dearth of hotels is restraining the growth of the river cruising market.

“I expect the surge [in river cruising] to really pick up after 2015 when more hotel rooms come online and prices become even more competitive,” observed Cindy Lam, president of US-based Solutions Travel Service.

TTG Asia

[pictured: Irrawaddy; photo by International Steam]

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