India, Myanmar look to boost ties with tourism

Mandalay: With Myanmar opening up in the last few years, international focus is back on The Golden Land. As its neighbour, India, too, is fast catching up with the changing political landscape in the neighbouring country and tourism is a sector both countries want to explore to boost bilateral ties.

In 2014, 3.08 million tourists visited Myanmar and 2.04 million visited it in 2013. However, India is in the 13th position on the list of tourists visiting Myanmar. Thailand and China occupy the two top spots.

“The tourism industry in Myanmar is booming. Both Myanmar and India need to improve this sector. Every Myanmarese wants to visit Gaya in Bihar once in their lifetime,” says Cho Cho Myint, a visiting professor in the tourism department of Mandalar College, Mandalay.

Supplementing her, Tapir Gao, former Lok Sabha MP, said both sides should focus on the Buddhist connection. Saying that people of Myanmar and the northeast are the same, he said health tourism is another area that should be explored.

Chairing a technical session at the International Tourism Conference on South East Asian Countries Tourism & India’s Act East Policy at Mandalay, Daw Kyi Kyi Aye of Myanmar Tourism Federation said the tourism sector is moving forward with the new government in Myanmar. She called for improving connectivity between Myanmar and Manipur.

The tourism conference on July 3 and 4 was jointly organized by the Indian Tourism and Hospitality Congress (ITHC), northeast chapter, and Mandalar College, Mandalay. It was supported by the Indian Consulate at Mandalay and Indo-Myanmar Fraternal Alliance.

Myanmar’s deputy minister for hotel and tourism Sai Kyaw Ohm said his country is strategically located between South East Asia and South Asia. “India-Myanmar ties are deep-rooted and we share long borders. We now need to focus on improving connectivity,” he added.

India shares a 1643-km-long border with Myanmar and there is a cultural connect between people on both sides.

“It has been a border of interaction, not a border of isolation,” said N Nandakumar, consul general of India, Mandalay.

He added that the change of perspective with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy can make India’s northeast region a tourism gateway to South East Asian countries.

With tourism and hospitality becoming the main industry in Myanmar, Win Hlaing, Mandalay region minister of social affairs, told the Indian delegation that his country has a lot of potential and that the Myanmarese are known for their hospitality.

Meinam Binota Devi, president of ITHC (NE), said the two countries have a bright future in tourism and called for strengthening the tourism infrastructure in border regions. President of Indo-Myanmar Fraternal Alliance R K Shivachandra said the future of NE India lies with Act East Policy and the region should facilitate Myanmarese tourists in visiting Bodh Gaya by land.

Source: The Times of India

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