Thais can gain from Myanmar tourism plans

THAI INVESTORS can reap rewards from Myanmar’s aggressive tourism initiative, despite its potential to provide stiff competition for Thailand’s tourism plans, according to Zicolaw (Thailand).

“Myanmar is outstanding in the hospitality sector in terms of quality of natural destinations, especially its long beaches. But it is still limited in terms of accommodation and food,” executive chairman Chulapong Yukate said.

Myanmar’s tourism promotion plan will target tourism as the country’s main earner in 2020, Chulapong said yesterday on the sidelines of a seminar called 2015 Zicolaw Investment Frontier Forum held in Bangkok.

Airports in Myeik and Dawei, near the south of Thailand, will be expanded and more than 500 islands on the Andaman Sea will be made available to private companies for leasing. This will provide Thailand’s tourism industry with increased competition, he said.

Chulapong added that this might provide an opportunity for Asean investors, including Thais. However, he said, Thai investors seem to be focusing on hotel management services rather than development construction.

A Thai businessman from Prachuap Kiri Khan province is currently investing in a 250-room hotel in Mayiek, he said. But Hong Kong investors have put thousands of millions of baht into the hotel business in Myanmar. Even though the Andaman islands will be open for leases, only Hong Kong firms among Zicolaw’s clients have so far applied.

Meanwhile, investments in food and restaurants were still only in the form of global brand chains.

“However, I think we [Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam] need to grow together so that illegal issues, such as the influx of labour, can be mitigated,” he said, adding that it did not mean Thais would lose benefits as a result of the country’s rising outbound investments.

Chulapong said many investors have shifted focus to Myanmar’s tourism business, as there is still room for growth, The business grew more than 100 per cent annually for years while the tourism business in Thailand was quite saturated.

As for inbound investments in Thailand, he said, the rising stars this year will be financial, construction and logistics firms. In the meantime, most Thai businesses in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) are in the construction and industrial estate sectors.

Malaysia was ranked as the top Asean nation for investments (40 per cent of total foreign direct investments), followed by Singapore and China with 30 per cent equally.

Chulapong said Zicolaw (Thailand) has opened offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to reserve higher demand for investments from its clients, as the minimum daily wage was still low.

He said the AEC’s full implementation by the end of this year, including free trade pacts between Asean and China, Japan, South Korea, Europe and Australia, would make the region more attractive with an expanded population of almost two billion people.

Chulapong said the construction and hotel sectors would also become big business in CLMV. Zicolaw expects to see Bt1 billion in revenue this year and double that next year.

Zicolaw (Thailand), a member of the Zicolaw network, was established in October 2006 as a dynamic partner and strategic association to other economies in the Indochina region. It specialises in representing foreign companies investing in Thailand and foreign companies or foreign-Thai joint ventures operating in Thailand. It offers full business legal advisory services to clients both in Thailand and abroad.

The company has expanded its legal network to the Asean region with offices in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and in Australia and Dubai.


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