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October 2, 2013

Incentive interest in Myanmar spikes

INCENTIVE buyers are becoming more interested in taking groups to Myanmar, especially with clients who want new experiences in the region, but issues such as access, visas and hotel capacity remain significant barriers for some.
Overcoming these challenges will be key if the country is serious about attracting new source markets and operators, according to trade specialists.
Joost de Meyer, CEO of US-based First Incentive Travel, told the Daily: “I definitely want to organise an incentive to Myanmar – not next year, but certainly in the next few years. There is a lot of buzz about this country in the US because it is not as overrun (by tourists) as other destinations in that (region).”
Beyond easing the burden of travel for visitors, the government should also organise familiarisation trips and join associations such as SITE and MPI, he said.
The previously closeted South-east Asian nation has opened up significantly in the past two years. Arrivals surged from around 800,000 in 2011 to more than one million last year, with the figure set to rise by 50 per cent by year-end.
This boom in arrivals was in part helped by improved air access, said Mark De Belie, owner of Act-Wise in Belgium, who took his first two incentive groups to Myanmar last year.
“Previously we had to go through three flights from Belgium to reach Myanmar, but today we can reach Myanmar with two flights,” he said. “However, the destination is still going through transformation so it may not be ready for large groups. If we need 2,000 rooms, Myanmar does not have enough capacity.”

Hotels are also struggling to cope with the influx of tourists, making the arrangement of incentives more difficult than in the past, said Eric Moris, managing director of Belgium-based Business Pass, who has been taking groups to the country for nine years.
“It’s becoming more difficult,” he said. “The country is more open but...things are developing (and) hotels are not following (the positive growth trend); they are not delivering.”
Meanwhile, Ashwani Gupta, managing partner of Dove Travels in India, said Myanmar will not attract Indian incentive groups until it simplifies the visa application process and does more to actively promote the destination within the trade.


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