Sherpa Hossainy's Blog

AirAsia plans big for Myanmar

Posted in ASEAN, Aviation, Tourism by Sherpa Hossainy on July 10, 2013

To launch Bangkok-Nay Pyi Taw flights from October

Published in Myanmar Business Today (Vol 1, Issue 20) on June 20, 2013

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Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia is aiming big for Myanmar as it announced to launch daily flights between Bangkok and Nay Pyi Taw from October and targets to move 500,000 passengers this year to the recently-opened Southeast Asian country.

Anthony F Fernandes, Group chief executive of AirAsia, announced AirAsia’s expansion plans at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in Nay Pyi Taw recently.

Tony Fernandes“It is especially timely as we anticipate a significant amount of travellers to this destination due to the upcoming SEA Games in December. With AirAsia’s extensive network, we are glad to play a role in connecting ASEAN to Myanmar’s happening capital, and we are equally excited to open up a new convenient option for residents of Nay Pyi Taw to reach Bangkok and the rest of the world,” Fernandes told a WEF session.

“Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 and the ASEAN Economic Community taking place in 2015 will spark a tremendous demand to connect the capital city to the rest of the world, and Bangkok is a perfect place to start,” Fernandes said.

The AirAsia chief said, “I’ve always been a strong believer that the success of the ASEAN Economic Community is highly dependent on regional connectivity and policies which truly support ASEAN open skies. But beyond ASEAN, Myanmar is also a gateway to India and China so it is only natural that the success of its economic reforms has enabled it to become one of the hottest investment sites in the region. With its foreign direct investment growing five times from 2011 to 2012, there is no better time to offer the world more access to this hot destination,” Fernandes added.

Currently, AirAsia offers three daily flights between Bangkok and Yangon, and one daily flight between Bangkok and Mandalay. In addition to Thailand, the low-cost airline also connects Yangon to Kuala Lumpur via one daily flight.

The carrier is also targeting to move 500,000 passengers this year to the country, Fernandes said. “Myanmar will have about 3 million tourists this year and we want about 20 to 30 percent share of that,” he said.

Eyeing its massive expansion, AirAsia, the biggest low-cost carrier of the region, has ordered more than 300 aircraft from Airbus SAS.

Fernandes told a high-level meeting on travel and tourism at WEF, “We are also training 20 pilots from Myanmar in our training facilities in Malaysia. Private industries have to be proactive to spur Myanmar’s growth and train human resources here.”

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A bid to save Yangon’s historic architectures

Posted in Myanmar, Real estate and property, Renewable energy, Tourism, Yangon by Sherpa Hossainy on July 10, 2013

Published in Myanmar Business Today (Vol 1, Issue 19) on June 13, 2013

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Yangon Heritage Trust, a local non government organisation, has joined hands with Netherlands-based electronics giant Philips to protect Yangon’s old architectures and cultural heritage sites.

The partnership aims to help conserve and beautify Yangon’s many cultural heritage sites. It will support research and curation of historical sites and installation of blue plaques, which will provide relevant information and detailed history of key sites.

The partnership was announced on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia on June 5 in Nay Pyi Taw.

YHT Philips

Dr Thant Myint-U (R), founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), and Harjit Gill, chief executive officer of Philips ASEAN and Pacific, display a blue plaque. Some 200 blue plaques detailing the history of Yangon’s heritage sites will be installed this year. Sherpa Hossainy

Philips contributed $75,000 for the Yangon blue plaques initiative to highlight cultural heritage sites throughout Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial and cultural hub. A total of 200 blue plaques will be installed to share the historical relevance and background of the heritage sites across the city. Most of the plaques will be installed by this year.

“We are in a time of change, and many things will change dramatically. But it is important to remind people and the government that we have to protect what is beautiful in our city,” said Dr Thant Myint-U, founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), founded a year ago targeting to preserve Yangon’s heritage.

YHT is currently working with the government to list heritage buildings in Yangon and take measures to protect them. “We are receiving tremendous support and enthusiasm from the government. We had meetings with top ministers at the national level and also with Yangon’s Mayor – they all assured us of their support,” Dr Thant told Myanmar Business Today. Government and public support, and collaboration with private entities are essential if YHT has to succeed, he added.

“Old Yangon has an area that is only 10 percent of the new city and we only want to preserve that part. There’s enough space for modernisation and to build shopping malls and business centres in other parts of the city. We can’t let Shwedagon Pagoda get covered by skyscrapers,” Dr Thant said.

“If we can protect the views of the Shwedagon and other heritage sites, Yangon has the potential to become the most beautiful city in Asia. Yangon is the only place in Asia where you have 19th and 20th century landscape left. They are priceless assets – if we can protect them, they will become more valuable than natural gas, oil or jade.”

Tourism is going to boom in Myanmar and Yangon’s downtown area can be presented as a package for tourists if the cultural sites can be saved, Dr Thant said. “Downtown Yangon is where modern Myanmar came to be, where our greatest writers, politicians and thinkers were born. Within only one square mile you can see tremendous diversity – there’s Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese temples, there’s mosques and a synagogue. You don’t see that everywhere.”

“In five to 10 years we will probably become a developing country, and then in 20 years a middle-income country. If we have a modern and beautiful city, we would be able to generate and attract talent, and be able to compete with other major cities in the region such as Delhi, Chennai and Shanghai,” he added.

Dr Thant, also a historian and author, said this initiative is not only about buildings, but also about people living in downtown, especially poor people living there. “They should understand that saving our heritage will bring in more investments and create jobs for them.”

A British colonial era building in Yangon. WMC

A British colonial era building in Yangon. WMC

However, he said there’s no immediate plan to expand YHT’s work in other major regions in Myanmar such as Mandalay and Rakhine state. “Currently we only want to focus on Yangon. We don’t have enough manpower and finance to expand to other regions,” he told Myanmar Business Today.

“We are pleased that Philips is supporting us in our initiative. These plaques will provide information and help identify historic buildings. Sometimes people don’t understand the history behind those buildings – we can achieve that through the plaques.

“We must remember, conserve and celebrate our heritage. The blue plaque system will play a big role in doing just that, by marking buildings and other places of historical, cultural, and religious importance, not only for tourists but for the Myanmar people themselves. It will be linked to other efforts to revitalise downtown Yangon and set the stage for sustainable growth. Our partnership with Philips is part of realising our mission to safeguard and promote Yangon’s priceless heritage as part of this great city’s future.”

Philips recently conducted a lighting audit of heritage zones in collaboration with both YHT and the Mayor’s office. Philips said in a statement that it aims to ensure lighting plays an important role in the Yangon Master Plan, so that energy efficient LED lighting technology can help further conservation, beautification, and sustainability.

“We want to help Myanmar grow in a sustainable way. We want the old architectures to last in a beautiful way amid all the development process,” said Harjit Gill, chief executive officer of Philips ASEAN and Pacific.

Myanmar unveils $500-m tourism master plan

Posted in Business, Economy, Investment, Myanmar, Tourism, Yangon by Sherpa Hossainy on July 9, 2013

Published in Myanmar Business Today (Vol 1, Issue 19) on June 13, 2013

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Myanmar launched an almost half a billion dollar master plan in a bid to boost its tourism industry and promote sustainable tourism.

The Myanmar government, alongside the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Norway, unveiled the “Tourism Master Plan” on June 6 on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

The master plan outlines 38 development projects valued at about $500 million aimed at increasing Myanmar’s tourism competitiveness, protecting environmentally important areas and safeguarding ethnic communities.

“This master plan outlines a path to welcoming more visitors to Myanmar without threatening our unique cultural heritage or endangering pristine environments,” said U Htay Aung, union minister for hotels and tourism.

International visitor arrivals in Myanmar are forecast to rise to 7.5 million in 2020 – a seven-fold increase from current numbers – with corresponding tourism receipts worth $10.1 billion, according to ADB. Under a high growth scenario, the tourism industry could provide up to 1.4 million jobs by 2020, the lender said.

“Tourism will be a pillar of Myanmar’s economy, and it has the potential to create meaningful job opportunities for the country’s people, including those living in poor communities,” said ADB Vice President Stephen Groff. “This plan is a long-term vision, and a solid start to ensuring tourism contributes to equitable social and economic development in Myanmar.”

The master plan, funded by Norway, recommends building tourism-related human resources by strengthening the tourism education and training system, and identifies $44.5 million in new opportunities and partnerships aimed at training tourism workers.

“The master plan provides a leading tool for Myanmar to develop the sector in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. The implementation will demand strong government leadership and coordination among a wide range of government agencies and state and regional governments,” said Katja Nordgaard, Norwegian ambassador to Myanmar.

The projects focus on expanding international air arrivals in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, undertaking improvements to the Bagan river pier to support more cruises, and building feeder roads in destinations like Ngapali beach and Inle Lake.

According to the plan, Myanmar’s 1993 Tourism Law will be reviewed and updated to streamline licensing formalities for hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and tour guides, as well as to amend sections governing regulations around the gaming subsector, labour and the establishment of outbound tour operations for Myanmar citizens. The plan suggests establishing a Tourism Executive Coordination Board, chaired at the vice-president level, to draw the various tourism-related ministries, agencies, and federations together under a single umbrella.

The plan also outlines the need for new tourist police divisions to be set up not only to safeguard tourists, but to prevent child trafficking and sex tourism. It suggests new tourism initiatives be introduced to ethnic communities using pilot community-based tourism projects that ensure local people are prepared to handle an influx of visitors, and maintain control over tourism in their communities.

Nearly half a million visitors arrived by air in Myanmar last year, with Thailand, China, Japan, the US, and South Korea making up the bulk of visitors. France, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK each accounted for about 4-5 percent of overall arrivals. Another 465,614 visitors – mostly on day trips from Thailand – arrived via land borders.

Myanmar signs quadripartite agreement on common ASEAN visa

Posted in Business, Myanmar, Tourism, Yangon by Sherpa Hossainy on July 9, 2013

Published in Myanmar Business Today (Vol 1, Issue 19) on June 13, 2013

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Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines signed a deal to collaborate with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate travel in the region by developing a common visa system.

Ministers and tourism authorities of the four countries signed the agreement – “Statement of Intent on SMART Visa” – on June 5 at the 22nd World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism High-Level meeting “Building Myanmar’s Travel and Tourism Industry: Driving Growth and Job Creation.” Over 900 participants from 55 countries took part in the meeting in Nay Pyi Taw from June 5 to 7.

The statement of intent forms a part of joint efforts to improve growth of the national and regional travel and tourism sectors along with social integration.

U Htay Aung, minister for hotels and tourism, said, “Through a close coordination in the ASEAN we want to introduce a seamless tourism experience. We are aiming to create a free flow of goods, capital, investments, labour and tourists across the ASEAN region through this integration process.”

The minister said ASEAN members are working together to facilitate mobility across the borders for tourists and get rid of the traditional visa application process.

“By signing this letter of intent, ministers and tourism authorities agree to work hand-in-hand for the implementation of this system, whose objective will be that of eliminating those barriers to the movement of tourists which are currently creating disincentives to travel. Such objectives will be achieved in close coordination with the governmental entities in the respective countries,” U Htay Aung said.

The ministers of tourism have agreed to collaborate on working towards the ASEAN Common Visa initiative as called upon by leaders at the ASEAN Summit, which took place in Jakarta in November 2011. It also builds on the single visa scheme for tourism travel between Cambodia and Thailand, which was implemented in January this year.

Mari Elka Pangestu, minister for tourism and creative economy of Indonesia, told the forum: “Considering that tourism is a priority sector under the ASEAN Economic Community and that it constitutes a significant contribution to the integration of ASEAN countries, it is important to be ‘smart’ about visa facilitation for travel.”

“By recognising the importance of the connectivity in tourism activities, the statement of intent expresses our desire to give a boost to the tourism sector by facilitating the movement of tourists across borders; by going towards a smart visa through adopting best practices; and maximising the use of technology to reduce the inefficiencies of the traditional visa application process,” Ramon R Jimenez Jr, secretary of tourism of the Philippines, said.

Thea Chiesa, director, head of aviation, travel and tourism industries, World Economic Forum, told the meeting that although Myanmar’s target of achieving 3 million tourists by 2015 is “aggressive”, it could be achieved if a hassle-free visa regime can be put in place. Facilitating travel will also stimulate economic growth and job creation in Myanmar, she added.

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