With visitor numbers soaring, foreign investors look to Myanmar

If Myanmar is going to attract 7.5 million visitors in 2020 (as the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism has claimed), its cities and resort areas are going to need some new hotels, and foreign investment seems likely to help the nation meet its goal.

Fortunately, this does not seem to be a problem: In 2011, the country had only 36 hotels and business complexes, which had attracted $1.1 billion in foreign investment. By September of this year, the country had 47 hotels alone and foreign investment grew to $2.6 billion, the Myanmar Times is reporting.

Since 1990, Singapore has invested $1.47 billion in Myanmar's hotel sector. Vietnam has invested $440 million while Thailand has come in third with $343 million. Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and the United Kingdom are also grabbing at opportunities, broadening the nation's appeal for visitors from across Asia and Europe. 

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Infrastructure improvements are also slated to help bring in visitors, with expansions under way for Yangon International Airport. Currently, the structure can accommodate 2.7 million people. It is expected to see 5 million passengers by the end of 2015, Eleven Myanmar is reporting. 

Who Is Building?
This growth has been on the rise for a while, and it has been dramatic. In 2013, Myanmar had only 800,000 international visitors. By last year, the numbers had increased to 2.8 million. But global visitors tend to expect globally branded hotels--and the brands are responding, with several deals signed in the past year alone.

A five-star hotel was announced as part of a $300 million development in the Yangon city center earlier this month. Twenty percent of the hotel will be owned by the Singapore-based Pan Pacific Hotels Group (who will also operate), 51 percent by City Square Development and 29 percent by Shwe Taung Junction City. The Pan Pacific Yangon, meanwhile, is slated to open in 2017.

In May, Starwood Hotels & Resorts signed a deal with Family Business Group Hotel Limited to develop a 375-room Sheraton property in Yangon, its first hotel in Myanmar. The property is also expected to open in 2017, well before the 2020 deadline for those 7.5 million visitors. In September, Wyndham Hotel Group also announced plans for its Myanmar debut when it signed a franchise agreement for a 260-room Wyndham Grand hotel in Yangon. The hotel, part of a mixed-use project, will be owned by Asia Myanmar Shining Star Company. 

Earlier this summer, Meliá Hotels International signed a deal for the new-build Meliá Yangon to be developed by the Vietnam-based Hoang Anh Gia Lai-Myanmar. The hotel will be part of a mixed-use complex including office buildings, apartments and a commercial center. Last week, Best Western Hotels & Resorts—which already has two properties in Yangon—opened the Best Western Plus Eastern Palace Hotel in Mandalay.  

Beyond Yangon and Mandalay, the Myeik archipelago (also known as the Mergui archipelago), 530 acres on Kyun Phi La and Nga Khin Nyo Gyi islands have been rented from the government for hotel development. Mokan & Kyaw Win Phyo are set to build a hotel on 510 acres on Kyun Phi La Island in Kawthoung Township, Taninthayi Region, while United Hotels & Resort will take 20 acres on Nga Khin Nyo Gyi Island. 

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