The unprecedented changes over the last couple of years in Myanmar have successfully grabbed the world’s attention, suddenly making the once-shunned, despot-ruled country into the “It” place to be – for tourists, conglomerates and investors alike.
Myanmar came out as the “Top Emerging Destination” in British travel magazine Wanderlust’s Readers’ Travel Awards survey; Lonely Planet has put Myanmar in its list of “top ten destinations” to visit, Forbes and CNN also dubbed Myanmar as one of the “hottest destinations” in the world.
In 2011, over 800,000 tourists visited Myanmar, an increase of 30 percent from the previous year. In 2012, more than 1 million foreign tourists visited the country and that figure is expected to rise to around 1.5 million in 2013.
The government, alongside the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Norway, in June unveiled a half-a-billion dollar Tourism Master Plan. ADB predicted international visitor arrivals to rise as high as 7.5 million in 2020 with corresponding tourism receipts worth $10.1 billion.
Global tour and travel companies and luxury river cruise operators are also looking to bank on the surge of tourists. Many have beefed up their operations, announced new custom-designed tour packages and have offered lucrative discounts to grab a piece of the pie.
British adventure travel company Tucan Travel in December released 14 new adventure tours which combine travel in Myanmar with the rest of Southeast Asia.
The new combined tours range from 23 days to 64 days, one of the longest of Tucan’s adventure tours.
“With Burma being such an up and coming destination, we are delighted to do more to develop the links between this country and the rest of the region,” Matt Gannan, CEO of Tucan Travel, said. “We now have a wide variety of tours for those people who want to extend their stay in Southeast Asia for up to 64 days.”
Depending on the number of countries visited and length of the tour, prices for Tucan’s new “Burma and Southeast Asia visits” vary from $3,409 to $6,659, according to its website.
Tucan Travel launched their first tour in Myanmar in 2012. The company said the release of these new tours reflects its confidence in the growth of demand for authentic travel experiences in the region.
California-based AmaWaterways said in November 2013 that it will launch a new ship and new river cruise program onMyanmar’sAyeyarwady river in November this year. AmaWaterways started accepting bookings for its Myanmar cruises (November 2014 through April 2016) last year.
“We have so many exciting developments in the works, especially our new program and new ship in Myanmar,” said Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways Executive Vice President and Co-Owner.
“My own experiences in Myanmar have been absolutely amazing. Our new cruises there will immerse our guests in a place that has long been shut off from the rest of the world, and that’s an opportunity no world traveller will want to pass up.”
An optional 4-night post-cruise land extension is available on both itineraries, featuring three nights in Inle Lake and one night in Yangon. AmaWaterways’ river cruises are crafted to hit Bagan, Mandalay, Moutn Popa, Inwa, Amarapura, Sagaing and Mingun.
Guests will cruise the Ayeyarwaddy aboard the newly built all-suite AmaPura, a 56-passenger vessel furnished with a combination of modern and traditional motifs. All 28 suites feature a balcony, an en suite bathroom and other deluxe amenities. The ship’s public areas include a restaurant, main lounge and bar, gift shop, spa, refreshing pool and a sun deck.
AmaWaterways’ Australian partner, Australian Pacific Touring (APT), also announced in November that it will launch a new river cruise program.
APT said it will offer guests the choice of two exclusive APT-only sailings in February and April 2015 aboard AmaPura as well as joint sailings. Full details of itineraries and pricing are expected to be announced this month.
Debra Fox, APT’s General Manager Marketing, said, “These are exciting times for APT, especially with the launch of our new ship in Myanmar. It’s a unique and spellbinding destination and one that has previously been out of reach to the Australian travelling public.”
Another travel company Backyard Travel, a Bangkok-based Asia travel specialist, in November announced discounted promotions for three of their Myanmar tours to lure more clients.
The company’s “A Tale of Two Cities: Mandalay to Bagan” and “Mruak U: The Hidden City” tours were available with a 10 percent discount until December, while the “Family Fun in Myanmar” was available with a 15-percent price cut.
“Myanmar is a country that inspires much intrigue and fascination,” said Backyard Travel’s General Manager Maeve Nolan.
“Demand for vacations in Myanmar has never been higher and we hope to inspire more travellers to visit with these great value promotions.”