PHUKET: The Japanese salary-man’s blue suit brushed past the backpacker’s Bob Marley t-shirt as they passed in the guest house hallway.
“No rooms. Fully booked,” said the desk clerk.
The Japanese man was on his way to shore up a lease on a garment factory and the Irish backpacker was here in Myanmar to see the wonders of Inle Lake and the golden Shwedagon Paya pagoda.
Yangon is buzzing with opportunists, now able to stay longer, start up businesses and travel more freely within the country. Ask anyone there. Myanmar is poised on the launch pad.
There are few available hotel rooms and domestic flights are often full.
However, nearly everyone’s trip to Myanmar starts in Bangkok at the embassy, where you spend most of the morning in a queue outside. Then you return to collect your visa in the afternoon.
Ironically and against this tide of transformation, there are no longer visas issued on arrival and direct flights from Phuket have been canceled indefinitely, according to staff at Bagan Airways.
With tourists on the way the traditional is unlikely to disappear as Myanmar catches up with the world.
All sectors of the Myanmar economy are on a tear and despite varying and range-bound GDP statistics from the government, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, it is clear to see minivans, restaurants and travel agencies full of foreigners.
Arrivals through Yangon International Airport rose by 22 per cent in 2011 to nearly 360,000, according to tourism ministry statistics.
“Arrivals numbers are increasing by 20 to 30 per cent every year,” Zai Wai Mang of Unique Asia Travel said. “It means we need to build more hotels, expand airlines and develop our infrastructure so we can offer a better level of service to visitors.”
Preparations are also underway for hosting the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, with launches of as many as 50 new hotels across the country.
After 50 years of military rule, the country staged an election in 2010 that installed a new government in Myanmar’s new capital city Nay Pyi Taw. Since then President U Thein Sein has provided the impetus required to carry the nation past the backstage of human rights abuses and subsequent trade sanctions.
Many hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars, but recent visits to the country by foreign secretaries Hillary Clinton and William Hague have resulted in increased releases in October and again last month alongside sanction-suspension talks.
The government has also made efforts to reduce conflicts with armed ethnic groups including the Mon and Shan states. Although Rohingya keep plying their way past Phuket shores, the “boat people” from the southern Tanintharyi region have not been spotted on the beaches of southern Thailand or Malaysia for some time now.
It is hoped the president will also announce soon that he will allow international observers to monitor the election when Myanmar voters go to the polls on April 1 this year.
T-shirts proclaiming a different point of view on open display.
Today, foreigners may neither own nor lease land. They must conduct business as a joint-venture partner in a locally-owned majority 51-49 per cent structure. Also, like Thailand, the 30-year lease is the new buzz word.
Land prices in Yangon, Mandalay and the most popular beach town, Ngapali, have spiked over the past 12 months, according to U Zaw Zaw of Unity Real Estate Agency.
“It got very crazy last year but we have seen prices come back down to more sensible levels to where property has generally increased by double over the past couple of years as opposed to tripling and even more,” he said. “New investors are still committed and are now simply waiting for elections. Prices will stabilize and then are expected to rise again.”
Building costs have gone hand-in-hand. Everything is imported from either Korea or China and both quality retail and commercial space are as rare as hen’s teeth.
However, many new hotels and residential developments are breaking through the five-story ceiling of the old Rangoon. In fact, the new Shangri-la is being borne out of an abandoned project stranded by the US and EU trade sanctions some years ago.
There are no international legal or accounting firms registered in Myanmar. This also set to change.
“These policies need change. Foreigners want stability signs from the government and parliament is keen on change,” said Yangon lawyer U Min Sen. “We will need to work hard to provide foreign companies with assured representation.”
A new law being introduced next month will apparently allow foreign firms to set up joint-ventures with the local partner owning less than 30 per cent and receive tax-free status for the initial five years, possibly extended for another three years (depending on the nature and location of the venture).
Also being discussed is the notion of a foreign company alone leasing land for an initial 30 years with two 15-year extensions.
These would effectively operate within prescribed “special economic zones”, as China experimented with in the 1980s.
Local exporters are calling on the capital to clarify whether current six-month old tax cuts due to expire this month will be extended. The tax cuts, ranging from 2% to 9%, were introduced to boost exports of fishery goods, agricultural produce and garments. This has also helped serve to increase legal remittances from abroad.
A visit to the Myanmar Securities Exchange was like entering a Monty Python skit. There are only two publicly listed companies: Myanmar Citizen’s Bank and Forest Products JV Corp. Neither of the two companies’ stock traded that day or the day before.
“We trade very low volumes of shares at present, but I met with investors Jim Rogers and George Soros recently and they were very interested in opportunities in Myanmar,” said Inami Shigeto, managing director of the Myanmar Stock Exchange.
The fledgling “exchange” is basically funded by a think-tank arm of Nomura Securities, but the promise is there. Many Chinese firms have expressed interest in participating in its expansion.
GOOD FOR BUSINESS: with more international visitors Yangon’s smaller businesses and street vendors’ fortunes are looking up. Photo: Takeshi Kimi
Key to obtaining increased varied commitments also lies in the hopes Myanmar will break military ties with North Korea as well as create laws to ensure its citizens have improved human rights.
Last month, BBC South East Asian correspondent, Rach
— John Gold
‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people
On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.
From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.
The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.
One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.
There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.
This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.
This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.
The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations
PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com
In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.
But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.
Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.
In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.
The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.
By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.
Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.
You can read the full list HERE.
Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com
Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com
Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works
The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.
The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.
The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.
Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.
As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.
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