Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Car rallies expected to rev up tourism with Thailand

Tourism between Myanmar and Thailand is set to accelerate after the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee (MTM) decided for the first time to cooperate on allowing rally cars to pass through their common border.

A car rally from Yangon to Mrauk U region Rakhine in 2016. Photo - Supplied A car rally from Yangon to Mrauk U region Rakhine in 2016. Photo - Supplied

MTM secretary U Myo Thwin told The Myanmar Times that an agreement has been reached but it had not yet been decided when it will take effect.

“A few details have to be worked out before we decide the exact date when rally cars will pass through Myanmar’s border with Thailand, but we expect it to be in September or toward the end of the year,” he said.

The car rally will start at Myanmar’s Htee Khee border area in Tanintharyi Region and go through Thailand’s Kanchanaburi, Sukhothai and two other ancient cities before returning through the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border area.

“The Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee is exploring possible destinations around the country as car rallies have the potential to increase tourism among both domestic and international travelers.

“The Myanmar Heritage Trail Tourism Rally has been in the planning since 2015,” he said.

“The rally-car market is getting more popular. Hotel occupancy rates are mostly up with more local rather than international visitors,” U Myo Thwin said, adding, “We should take care of domestic tourism development first, which is very important. The rallies are intended as a market promotion tool and will help regional tourism development. That’s why we are seeking the best potential destinations.”

Last year, only 2.9 million international tourists visited Myanmar, but there were more than six million domestic travelers, which exceeded expectations.

U Khin Aung Htun, deputy chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, said that domestic tourists can explore various scenic routes and learn about the different cultures and traditions of local people, which will help boost domestic tourism.

“Domestic tourism will improve if there is a stable political climate. Tourism in Kayin State has doubled. Now more than 100 people visit the state each day, up from about 10 before,” he said.

“The first part of the Myanmar Heritage Trail Tourism Rally was to Pyay, Bagan and the Pyu ancient cities in 2015. The second and third trips took participants to the Golden Triangle and Rakhine, Mrauk-U and Arrawaddy regions in 2016.

“Currently, there are ongoing trips to the south, and a fourth trip to Mon State and Tanintharyi Region started June 3 and will end on Friday,” he said.

Daw May Myat Mon Win, chair of MTM, said, “Many people thought that the roads were very bad and unsafe for cars, but the roads are not as terrible as they thought they were. The route was pleasant when we went to Mrauk-U. Also the roads in Mon and Tanintharyi in the south are improving.”

Daw May Myat Mon Win said that relying on international tourists is not good because when foreign countries have economic downturns, it affects Myanmar’s tourism. So, pushing domestic tourism makes sense because it offers long-term sustainability, she said.

“Cities like Bagan and Mrauk-U depend heavily on domestic travelers,” U Khin Aung Htun said.

“We have been to the east, west and south of the country. If possible, we want to look at Myitkyina in Kachin State in the north as a potential destination for car rallies,” he said.