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Myanmar unveils new tourism branding and boosts visa-free travel

The new brand, which features the country as “The last frontier in Southeast Asia,” will be used for marketing activities, including travel shows, tourism road shows and digital marketing.

Be Enchanted“, Myanmar’s new tourism branding portrays the destination as a friendly, charming, mystical and as-yet-undiscovered destination. Unveiled recently in Yangon by Union Hotels and Tourism Minister U Ohn Maung, the new brand was developed on the basis of the current awareness of Myanmar as a tourist destination and a comparison with a range of other destinations,

A survey, conducted at Yangon Airport, found that the tagline “Be Enchanted” reflects the good experience visitors had with Myanmar people – the kindness and warm welcome – and evokes the image they had of Myanmar which was special, magical and mysterious. “Be Enchanted” is as much a promise as it is an invitation. The word ‘enchanted’ holds within it the true heart of Myanmar,” said U Ohn Maung.

The new brand, which features the country as “The last frontier in Southeast Asia,” will be used for marketing activities, including travel shows, tourism road shows and digital marketing, and for it’s potential to deflect this year’s first semester drop in the numbers of international visitors. From January to June the number of arrivals fell by 38,000 on the 1.8 million arrivals in the same period in 2017.

The rainbow on the horizon comes from Asian markets which rose by 12% in the same first six months of this year. The government, looking to nurture this new trend, is making it easier for Japanese, South Koreans and Chinese, including citizens of Hong Kong and Macau, to visit. Visa-free travel for Japanese and South Koreans, and visas-on-arrival for Chinese who enter through Yangon, Mandalay or Nay Pyi Taw airports, took effect on October 1 for a one-year trial. In 2017 Asian markets accounted for 70% of international arrivals to Myanmar with growth being led by Vietnamese visitors, with a 75% year-on-year increase at Yangon International Airport followed by the Philippines with a 62% rise and Singapore by 20%.

Another step being taken by the ministry to boost awareness of the destination in Asian countries is to use brand ambassadors. Following the recent appointment of a brand ambassador for Japan, Minister U Ohn Maung said there were plans to appoint them also for China and South Korea and that the ministry is planning promotions later this year in Spain, Italy, Britain and Germany and in Scandinavian countries.

The downward trend in international arrivals is impacting on the hotel industry which currently has a glut of hotel rooms, driven by the rising number of visitors in recent years, topping 3.44 million arrivals last year, an 18% rise over 2016.

Myanmar currently has 1,693 hotels with 67,889 rooms, while Yangon has 403 hotels with 21,099 rooms. “And more hotels are opening all the time,“ said May Myat Mon Win, chairperson of Myanmar Tourism Marketing. “The biggest change is in customer expectations. The hotel business is a long term one, and hoteliers must be willing to innovate and adapt to changing cycles and customer demands. With the Internet and the amount of competition in the market now, if we don’t live up to customer expectations, they will go elsewhere.”

In the long term, the prospect for Myanmar’s hotel sector is seen as a positive one. “Just take a look at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap,” said May Myat Mon Win who is also general manager of Chatrium Hotel Yangon, “it enjoys more than four million tourists per year. Just 300,000 tourists visit Bagan every year. There is still a lot of potential.”

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Pamela McCourt Francescone was born in Dublin and educated in Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and London and then at Trinity College Dublin. She left her job as an aspiring director in Irish Television when she fell in love with Italy many years ago. She started working with the American newspapers in Rome, the Daily American and the International Courier and then moved into travel writing. She speaks fluent Italian, good French and fair Spanish. She is a translator (it's more a passion than a job) and have been a PR and Press Agent for Italian and international travel companies. She's a good amateur photographer and a passionate traveller. She writes, in Italian and English, for leading international magazines and papers. Her travel philosophy reflects that of my great fellow citizen and the "boy next door" (he was born at 1 Merrion Square, she at 68) Oscar Wilde who, famously, said: "To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." For her the unexpected is the essence of travel: and in the 99 countries she has visited she has come across so much more than she ever hoped or dared expect. Specialties: Destinations, luxury travel, luxury hotels, air transport, MICE, art, culture, food, wellness.