Sunday, August 20, 2017

Direct flights please tour operators in Myanmar, Cambodia

Tour operators from Myanmar and Cambodia say they are optimistic that a new direct flight service between the two countries will boost the development of their respective tourism industries.

Myanmar Airways International (MAI) started its twice-weekly scheduled service between Yangon and Siem Reap on February 23, while Air Bagan also has long-standing ambitions to join the national carrier on the route. Key tourism industry personnel from Myanmar and Cambodia agreed the direct flights would be beneficial for both sides.

“For the tourism industry, the airline [service] between Yangon and Siem Reap is very, very important and also for the economic development of both countries,” said Mr Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Associations of Travel Agents and head of Phnom Penh-based Great Angkor Tours told The Myanmar Times last month.

He said Myanmar had plenty to offer tourists from both Cambodia and abroad.

“For international visitors Bagan, Mandalay and Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon are very interesting places to see,” he said. “For Cambodian visitors, Bago and Golden Rock [Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda] in Mon State are very interesting because we have historical link with Mon people and we call them Khmer Mon.”

Dr Aung Myat Kyaw, chairman of the Myanmar Marketing Committee, said Myanmar stood to attract some of the millions of tourists who visit Angkor Wat near Siem Reap each year.

“I believe these flights will bring the Western market to Myanmar and Cambodia as one destination. And it will also bring another tourism product to the market, especially the European market,” he said. “We know that visitors from European countries, such as France, Germany and Italy, enjoy cultural tourism. So these MAI flights will make it possible to see these marvellous archaeological sites in one easy tour.”

But Mr Han Rutten, the director of Cambodia’s Intra Travel, cautioned that the direct service would need to be promoted to have a significant impact on tourism development.

“This direct air route is very good opportunity for tourists who want to travel between Cambodia and Myanmar,” he said.

“But many people still don’t know about it. Travel agents from both Myanmar and Cambodia will have to use their networks to inform partners overseas about the convenience of this air link.”

“Using this air link, visitors who want to travel to Myanmar can save a lot of money as they don’t need to transit from Bangkok like before. Visitors can fly to Siem Reap to Yangon, and then they can visit Yangon and finally can fly to Bangkok from Yangon as a round trip. This program is very good for them,” he said.

He suggested Siem Reap-Yangon-Bangkok route could prove popular for international travellers.

“It will be fantastic when the number of flights on the route increases to three times a week from October and I hope it will be easier to get a Myanmar visa in the near future,” he said.

Ma Ei Thwe Aung, head of the travel division at Kah Hock Travel and Tours in Phnom Penh, said the service had the potential to put Myanmar back on many Southeast Asia itineraries.

“This will help influence the travel decisions of international tourists when they are thinking of travelling to Southeast Asia. It’s also important for promoting Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar as one destination. But Myanmar needs to invest more in tourism infrastructure and human resources,” she said.

She said the company would promote Myanmar as a pilgrimage destination to older travellers and a cultural destination to the younger generation.

Travel agents in Myanmar said there had been an immediate increase in interest in Cambodia as a result of the introduction of flights.

“We received a lot of enquiries for programs to Siem Reap. We will start offering a four-days/three-nights trip to Siem Reap this month,” said Ko Lynn Zaw Wai Mang, an executive director of Unique Asia Travels and Tours in Yangon.

Ko Mange Maung Myo Thaung, the owner of Mandalay Inn in Siem Reap, said MAI needed to advertise more in Cambodia and work more closely with local tourism companies, informing them not only of flight availability but also the visa-on-arrival for travellers from Siem Reap.