Myanmar has been working hard to open more tourist sites and areas for foreign tourists to discover a country which has often been called “one of the last frontiers” to open up for tourists. Since the beginning of December, the “Secretariat building”, which is arguably the biggest colonial building in Southeast Asia has been opened for the public, offering guided tours four times per day through this historical building. “Visitors get to see historically significant sites such as Myanmar’s very first parliament, the flagpole where the Myanmar flag was raised for the first time on Myanmar Independence day (1948) and the Martyrs’ room where General Aung San and other martyrs were assassinated,” says U Kan Win Oung from Asia Tours Myanmar, who is operating the tours to travel agents as well as individual tourists. He continues saying, “Currently we are open on Mondays to Fridays (slots available at 9:30, 11:30, 13:30, and 15:30 respectively) and on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. only.” Entrance fees for this site include a guided tour for 6 USD / person.
This latest tourists site added to the “must visit places” in Myanmar covers an area of 6.5 hectares right in the centre of Yangon. Early adapters visiting Myanmar in the beginning of 2000 might remember this as the heavily guarded site which couldn’t be approached or have pictures taken of.
The Myanmar ministry of hotel & Tourism also announced that it’s possible again to apply for permits to travel overland from Inle Lake to Keng Tung over highway No 4 which has been called one of the most scenic drives in Myanmar and opens up possibilities for overland road trips to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. The area is offering stunning nature and traditional tribes that have come across few western tourists.
The Bago Yoma forests, home to many Myanmar elephants that are in danger of being poached for their skin, has opened the Bago Yoma Eco Resort in an effort to open the area up for tourism. In Southern Rakhine state, the Arakan Nature Lodge has started operating an eco-lodge right on the pristine Zikhone village beach, making it an excellent opportunity to consider this part of Southern Rakhine state as a viable new tourist destination.
The opening of this new tourist attraction comes at a time when the number of tourists arriving at Yangon airport (from January – November 2017) still shows a 7 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016. The numbers, released on 11 December by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism show that the number of tourists — especially Asian tourists — increased by a double-digit percentage from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. The number of tourists from Western Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand show a slight decrease of 8-9 percent for tourist arrivals at Yangon International Airport. Not visiting Myanmar is “a big loss for those thousands of people working in tourism in Myanmar who have nothing to do with the issue in Northern Rakhine State,” as May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing Chairperson said earlier this year.
Further recent and future openings in Myanmar include the Pan Pacific Hotel that opened its doors a few weeks ago and the upcoming Hilton Mandalay and Pullman Yangon which are planned for the first quarter of 2018.