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Tourism minister calls for hotel price regulation ahead of SEA games

Burma’s tourism minister has called for hotel prices to be regulated ahead of the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in December or risk derailing the country’s nascent tourism industry.

Hotel and Tourism Minister Htay Aung recently warned that the current trend of rising hotel prices in Burma’s commercial capital could put people off from attending the games as well as deter future tourists.

“Raising [accommodation] prices during the SEA Games could prevent tourists from visiting in the future,” said the minister.

“There are many new hotels that will open in Rangoon by the end of this year and the charges need to be regulated.”

According to one tourism operator, if the issue went unaddressed potential visitors might reconsider attending the games.

“Hotel operators think there will be a lot of tourists visiting, but don’t realise they actually won’t if the prices are this high,” said Aye Kyaw, owner of Rubyland Tourism Services.

“This will destroy the tourism sector and the hotel operators are going to be the ones responsible for that.”

According to a report published in the English edition of The New Light of Myanmar on 7 June, the government is in the process of cooperating with hotels and tour operators to address the problem.

“Regarding the recent high room prices, the ministry is making coordination [sic] between the tourism companies and the hotels and educating the hoteliers to balance prices and services and to offer full services to the foreign guests,” read the report.

During the World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw last week, the Burmese and Norwegian governments along with the Asian Development Bank announced the implementation of a half billion-dollar tourism master plan.

The new money aims to address the country’s woefully undeveloped infrastructure that languished after decades of international isolation and tourism boycotts supported by human rights groups.

More than 30 development projects will be completed in accordance with the master plan, including the building of new roads and expanding arrival terminals at the country’s airports.

As the Burma’s continues to open up during its nascent reform period, the number of tourists visiting the former pariah has soared; however, due to the lack hotels in the country prices have gone through the roof.

Although officials have boasted that more than a million tourists visited Burma in 2012, only 559,610 travellers arrived in Rangoon, while more than 400,000 people entered the country for day trips at Thai border crossings.

In May, the Minister Aung Htay said the government was hoping to have three million tourists visit the country by 2015.

However, experts have questioned whether the massive push to increase the number of visitors was sustainable in the impoverished country.

“I think it’s very difficult to have responsible tourism when the aim is to have three million tourists by 2015,” said Andrea Valentin, founder of Tourism Transparency.

“We have to develop that number sustainably. I don’t know if that number can be reached in a sustainable way.”

According to statistics compiled by the Burmese government in 2012, there are more than 28,000 rooms available at the 787 hotels operating across the country.


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