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The urchins of Yangon could be the tourism magnets of tomorrow

Europe Flight to Phuket Will Open Up Burma

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
PHUKET: Phuket is likely to play an important part in opening Burma (Myanmar) to tourism from Europe, even though Burma also represents a potential rival destination to Phuket.

From November this year, the German leisure carrier Condor plans a weekly flight from Frankfurt to Phuket that will pause on the way in the old Burmese capital of Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon.

In a major survey of the coming aviation boom to Burma, the Centre for Aviation reports that the new Condor service ''recognises the huge potential of Myanmar's tourism industry as the country emerges as an up and coming tourist destination.''

More people in Phuket's tourism industry are recognising the importance of emerging Burma to tourism in South-East Asia and the possibility of tourists who once enjoyed Phuket's pristine beaches being attracted by what Thailand's less-developed neighbor will soon have to offer.

Opening up Burma via a link from Europe to Phuket makes sense. But Phuket tourism will have to work hard over time to remain competitive on prices and natural assets.

The opening of Burma to tourism should trigger a major reevaluation of Phuket's appeal - and the implementation of a strategy to preserve and protect its major assets, the beaches and the coral reefs.

As the yachting and diving hub for much of the region, and with diving connections already clearly established between Phuket and Burma's best diving sites, Phuket's future will - at least in the early stages - probably be boosted as Burma opens up.

Any tourism strategy for Phuket also needs to include Phang Nga and Krabi, with the future of the three Andaman provinces now clearly intertwined and reliant on a change in approach and a rejection of the ''anything goes'' philosophy of many local council administrators.

''Qatar Airways has unveiled plans to open in October a thrice weekly service from Doha to Yangon,'' reports the Centre for Aviation.

''Several carriers are now considering following China Eastern in launching service to Mandalay, including Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia and new Thai Airways regional unit Thai Smile.

'' At least one of these carriers is likely launch flights to Mandalay by year-end. New services from Mandalay from Bangkok as well as nearby Chang Mai in northern Thailand are possible.''

A direct service from Mandalay to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is also likely, the report adds.

''Low frequency flights connecting Mandalay with popular tourist destinations in Laos and Cambodia could also be appealing as tourists visiting the Mekong region often look to combine multiple destinations,'' it says.

''Some foreign carriers including Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia also have been examining potential service to Bagan, another famous tourist site located between Yangon and Mandalay.

''But Bagan is currently only a domestic airport and industry sources do not expect it will be upgraded anytime soon to accommodate international services.''

The report makes the point that lack of airport capacity for taking large aircraft and a shortage of hotels and other accommodation will apply a brake to Burma's development.

But China is already the second largest source of tourists for Myanmar after Thailand, so expect change to come rapidly.

''If foreign carriers are too aggressive, there could be a period of overcapacity,'' concludes the report. ''But over the medium to long term, Myanmar is undeniably a market which will be able to support a huge increase in capacity from a wide mix of carriers.''

Comments

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It is indeed a very interesting time for Burma. As far as diving goes, it's far superior to anything Thailand has to offer and Burmese in general speak much better English too.

On the downside the waters off Southern Burma's coast are quite murky, much like in the straits of Malacca. One has to venture out to the outlying islands to find clear waters.

Dynamite fishing is also still very common in Burma with devastating consequences for coral reefs and marine life in general.

Posted by Steve C. on April 18, 2012 11:47

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[quote]
... and the implementation of a strategy to preserve and protect its major assets, the beaches and the coral reefs.
[/quote]

Sorry, am I missing something here? The majority of Phuket beaches and coral reefs are already ruined and beyond saving.

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 18, 2012 13:14

Editor Comment:

That's a matter of opinion, Simon - both the ''ruined'' part and the ''beyond saving'' part. Say who? You? Come off it.
Yes, you are missing something here - a constructive opinion based on fact.

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Ed - if it were only me claiming that the beaches and coral reefs were ruined and beyond saving - then my stance could be happily ignored.

But my view seems to be shared by many of the customers who stay at my three airport hotels/guesthouses.

Do you know why I build guesthouses by Phuket Airport and not by the beaches? It because over the past 8 years or so, I have seen the rapid destruction of these beautiful beaches such that many tourists simply use the airport as a jumping-off point to travel further afield to more beautiful destinations in Phang Nga and Krabi provinces.

My airport businesses are reasonably safe from the downturn in beach visitors to Phuket that WILL occur.

Coming back on-topic, I already travel every 10 days to Myanmar to research the construction of a small hotel to compliment my airport businesses. I know that Myanmar is opening up and that's going to be to the detriment of Phuket and Thailand in general.

I'm off tomorrow to Kawthanug - I'll bring you back some duty free cigs and booze if you want :)

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 18, 2012 17:10

Editor Comment:

What you are actually saying is ''don't bother going to stay at Phuket's beaches, stay at one of my places by the airport instead.'' Although the beaches are being degraded, we've never said as you have that they were ''ruined'' or ''beyond recovery.'' They're not. Whether or not your customers agree with you - and if you don't ask them ''open'' questions they are always going to agree with you - you'd probably have difficulty persuading anyone that you have an unbiased perspective.

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When all the Myanmar workers return home from Phuket there is going to be nobody left on the island who speaks English. It's a pity those Burmese were abused for years in Phuket; had you given them rights years ago they might have settled down and stayed. Now as Burma becomes the new economic frontier Thailand and Malaysia are both scrambling to offer the Burmese better rights.

Looks like the Global Financial Crisis is about to hit Thailand and Malaysia.

Posted by George on April 18, 2012 17:18

Editor Comment:

Does an undersupply of workers trigger a financial crisis? I thought a financial crisis triggered unemployment.

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Time will tell.you can all speculate, but one thing is certain, and its already happening... more and more Burmese are going back to Burma to get ready to build the NEW Burma, i know of many who will not be returning to Phuket.

Posted by johndev on April 18, 2012 21:43

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As far as I remember, did Lauda Air that Vienna-Yangoon-Phuket-Vienna flight some years ago already for one, two, more? seasons, but canceled the connection after some time.
Maybe it was to early at that stage?
Let us see how Condor is doing.

Posted by Alfred on April 18, 2012 22:48

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Lack of skilled workers in Phuket; i.e. Myanmar workers that speak English and willing to work for a minimal wage with no rights means that Thais are either going to have to learn to work harder for less money or find themselves unemployed. Unless of course well heeled Europeans in the middle of their financial crisis are are willing to spend double what they did on a Holiday to Thailand.

My Guess is Thailand is about to find itself in the same position as Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Posted by George on April 19, 2012 17:10


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