“Leapfrogging” is what some people called it. When Myanmar opened up
aggressively eight years ago, the country suddenly had access to easier
online e-visa application, faster mobile internet and a wide range of
food choices in trendy restaurants. From lagging behind in tourism
facilities, the country skipped a few steps and made sure no visitors
It looks like Myanmar has been thinking ahead again. The policy of
“decentralised decision-making” and empowering each of the 14 states and
divisions in the country has led to a boost of tourism developments in
the country's remote and undiscovered areas.
The Myanmar Tourism Strategic Recovery Roadmap has set out a core
vision to focus on destination development and positive social and
economic impacts for the local community through tourism. All state and
divisions plan their own strategies in alignment with this roadmap, and
DMOs have been formed and empowered to develop tourism in their area.
The future of post-Covid travel will focus on avoiding crowds, social
distancing, visiting open-air places or well ventilated attractions,
and visiting a country in a safe way. And that’s exactly what Myanmar is
focusing on: developing attractive tourist destinations in remote
areas, zooming into open-air activities including agricultural tourism,
activities such as biking and trekking, as well as a focus on natural
Areas that were not even mentioned in the most detailed travel guides
a few years ago are currently seeing a boom of charming boutique hotel
developments. Cities that were “off limits” to foreign tourists are now
actively promoting themselves as the next place to visit. All this, with
the aim to spread out the number of people in a certain area as well as
the tourism dollars over a bigger area.
Taking Kayin as a sample
Zwekabin Mountain in Hpa-An, Kayin State. The state has taken the lead in Myanmar's move to speed up developments on infrastructure and tourist attractions in more remote areas.
Probably one of the best examples of developing new tourist
destinations is Kayin State, about a five hours’ drive from Yangon. Its
capital Hpa-An used to look a bit grim and it was hard to find a proper
restaurant, a good hotel or even a tourist guide—it simply wasn’t
interesting enough for tourists.
Visit the place now and you will feel a very positive and energetic
atmosphere and sense an eagerness to show off Kayin's culture and
nature. Tourist attractions have opened up: there are more caves to
visit, a boat ride is now possible on the Thanlwin River, hiking paths
have been upgraded for visitors to enjoy views of the limestone
mountains, and a lively night market has been developed on the
The state managed to attract investors and now boost several
excellent four-star hotels and resorts that are becoming more popular
with domestic and foreign tourists. The Chief Minister of the state Nang
Khin Htwe Myint is also helping to get the traditional Kayin dance
listed in the UNESCO world intangible heritage list.
Most importantly, probably, is that Kayin state has the right factors
to attract post-Covid travellers. A lot of the attractions are open air
and breezy, allowing the flow of tourists to be easily managed. As
well, decisions are made locally on the ground to make sure every
tourist experiences a safe and healthy Kayin state.
This is why moving forward, the country is expecting more remote
areas to speed up developments on infrastructure and tourist
attractions, for example in Kayah state (Demoso township), Sagaing
Division as well as Dawei in Tanintharyi Division and the Kalaw region.
It’s not only good news for tourists—the decentralisation also very
much leads to more engagement from local communities to welcome tourists
and to develop a sense of pride for their own regional culture and
Keep a close eye on Myanmar. Because as shown before, the country
knows how to leapfrog and move fast in the right direction to develop
more remote, outdoor destinations that are perfect for the post Covid
travel experiences your clients are looking for.
Myo Thwin is currently the chairman at Myanmar Tourism Marketing,
vice chair of the Myanmar Tourism Federation and a public servant
member of Tourism Executive Committee of Union of Myanmar. He is also
managing director at Sweet Memory Travel and also sits on the board of
director at Zwekapin Valley Resort & Spa and Dawna Alliance.