Travel bans imposed by the Russian government to Turkey and Egypt has meant that over 7 million Russian tourists will be looking for new holiday destinations. Possible destinations that have been discussed are Israel, Cuba, Morocco and Greece. But there is another destination which has not yet been discussed and has the potential to be the next big tourist destination – Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
With the figures for tourist arrivals in 2015 yet to be published the country received 3,081,412 visitors in 2014, an increase from 2,044,307 in 2013. Tourism in Myanmar has been relatively slow compared to its Southeast Asian neighbour Thailand which received 884,085 Russian tourists in 2015. One of the main reasons why tourism has been slow in the country is due to its political situation. However, since 2012 power shifted from the military junta to the civilian government and tourism numbers increased and private investment poured into the country, especially in the tourism industry. In December 2015 the first openly contested elections were held since 1990 and the results gave the National League for Democracy an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the national parliament. So what does this mean for tourism in 2016? It means the potential for huge amounts of growth for the country!
Russians can apply for an e-visa for 28 days which is more than Vietnam (15 days) which received 338,843 Russian tourists in 2015. In 2013, Myanmar created the Tourism Master Plan targeting 7.5 million arrivals by 2020, and with the changes in the political situation and the bans on Turkey and Egypt, Russia has the potential to make up a large number of this 7.5 million.
Myanmar has plenty to offer Russian tourists with its stunning beaches such as Ngapali Beach – a 3km white beach lined with palm trees with warm, clear waters that are perfect for water sports such as snorkeling and there are several small islands around which can be reached by boat. There is also Ngwe Saung Beach which has a staggering 15 km silvery sand beach with watersport activities also available and an increase of hotels and resorts means that a 2 week all inclusive beach holiday would suit those Russian tourists who are looking to escape the cold winters of Russia and relax on the beach.
The country has much more to offer and arguably the most famous attraction in the country lies in the former capital Yangon – the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. Standing at over 100 metres high and 2,500 years old it is a truly amazing structure and one of the Religious Wonders of the World. The city’s attractions do not stop there, you can visit Chinatown, Little India, a number of markets, temples, churches, mosques, and the famous Strand Hotel is one of the most iconic 5 star hotels in Yangon, built in 1901, it remains as awe inspiring as it was in the early 20th Century, and former guests include Mick Jagger and David Rockefeller.
Other popular tourist destinations include the city of Mandalay which is the second largest city in Myanmar and hosts an array of historical sites including the Royal Palace with impressive outside walls and moat, the Mahamuni and Kuthodaw pagoda, Shwenandaw monastery, Mandalay Hill, a variety of local craft workshops and the nearby religious centre of the Holy Sagaing Hills. Mandalay is near the towns ofMingun, Ava and Amarapura, which is home to the U-Bein Bridge, built in 1850, it is the longest teakwood bridge in the world. Bagan is also an immensely popular destination as this ancient city is home to over 2000 pagodas and offers attractions such as a once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon over the plains of Bagan.
The country also offers plenty of adventure with nature trails in Inle Lake, Kengtung, Putao, Pyin Oo Lwin. While its temples and stupas, shrines and monasteries are as much part of the landscape as the colourful markets, vibrant festivals and remote villages and one of the best ways to see parts of the country is by enjoying a luxury cruise along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers with many cruise companies offering a variety of packages to suit all budgets.
Christian Mosebach, the co-founder and director of AsiaTrips, which is a major national and regional tour operator in Southeast Asia is welcoming an increase of Russian tourism into the country. Since operating its first tours in Myanmar in 2001, AsiaTrips is looking to build relationships with tour operators from Russia to offer to fill the huge gap left by the bans on Turkey and Egypt, ”We have the infrastructure in place to arrange and organise a variety of holidays for the Russian market, from individual tailor made tours to group holidays. Myanmar has similar weather to Turkey and Egypt, beautiful beaches and an amazing history waiting to be discovered”.
Christian is also boosted by the fact that AsiaTrips sister companies – IAC (Indochina Aviation Centre) and MAC (Myanmar Aviation Centre) have the knowledge, experience and infrastructure to receive VIP, Private, Commercial and Charter flights from Russia. IAC was in fact the designated ground handler for the Russian Prime Minister’s recent visit to Cambodia and their network covers 5 countries including Myanmar with over 20 airports covered. ”We have handled almost every type of aircraft on a wide array of missions including many VIP charter flights and if we find the right Russian tour operator interested in partnering with us, we can start operations for the Russian market this next holiday season. This is a huge opportunity for the country to open its doors to tourism, and for the Russian tour operator that partners with us the possibility of growth is enormous as they will be first Russian tour operator in the country”
Although Christian in keen to fulfill the immediate huge gap in the Russian tourism market he is hoping that the recent changes in Myanmar will persuade tourists and tour operators from all over the world to come and invest and discover what this vastly diverse country has to offer.
If you would like further information about Myanmar and the possibility of visiting or operating tours in the country then you can contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.