Tourism forum expects bright future for SE Asia

Tourism operators in Southeast Asia expect huge arrival numbers, while Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar will play a great role in this.

Travel experts predict a bright future for the hospitality industry in the region, with arrivals to surpass 100 million this year, up from 99.5 million in 2013 and compared with an estimated 109 million in 2014.

Asean’s outbound departures are estimated at 45 million to 55 million. Many operators are fine-tuning strategic plans to capture that business.

Selva Kumar, chief operating officer of Apex Airlines, a new carrier based in Myanmar, said yesterday that the airline planned to begin flying in March to Yangon, Myeik, Sittwe and Dawei. Next year, it will add Bangkok, Chennai, Yunnan and Ho Chi Minh City.

Apex Group, which is in the hotel, oil and gas businesses in Myanmar, formed the airline two years ago to tap the growing tourism market at home as well as in neighbouring countries.

“As a full-service carrier, we aim to serve a large customer base not only in this country, but also in India and China, as we’re in a strategic location between two huge economies,” he said.

Currently, 10 airlines are competing in a tough market with only 3 million arrivals a year. Apex is one of three airlines formed during the past five years. The other two are FMI Air Charter and Mann Yadanarpon Airlines.

However, the opening of Myanmar is expected to lead to rapid growth in tourism as well as other service industries.

Phadhanun Siriwadhanadhun, director of sales at Phuket-based Deevana Hotels and Resorts, said its regular customers were from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia. The group this year is beginning to seek new customers from Myanmar, which is claimed to be one of the fastest-growing markets in the region in terms of outbound traffic.

However, it might not gain a big share in Myanmar for a few years, as the company got only six or seven business appointments at the Asean Tourism Forum taking place in Nay Pyi Taw, possibly because of the small number of tourists.

“We see opportunities in the long term from this emerging market. Thailand will remain the gateway into Myanmar,” she said.

The group is building more hotels in southern Thailand.

Several hotels are springing up in Phuket such as the Ramada and Fisherman Harbour. They are also appearing at the forum in Myanmar to cash in on the opportunity.

Le Tan Binh, director of business development at Sea Links City in Vietnam, said buyers from many countries were interested in the Vietnamese market, judging from the large number of business appointments at this year’s forum.

The hotel logged about 50 appointments ahead of the event, marking one of the hottest destinations in Southeast Asia.

“Major operators in Australia, the United States and United Kingdom are eyeing Vietnam as the emerging place in the region compared with other countries,” he said.

Though Sea Links City has garnered interest from travel agents around the world, the group – which runs hotels, residences, villas, golf courses and a winery – is continuing to seek new opportunities including Myanmar tourists.

Eric Oei, senior manager for business development at Mandarin Orchard Singapore, said the number of visitors from Myanmar to Singapore was expected to soar within a few years.

Source: The Nation

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