Thailand and Myanmar will promote maritime tourism together

tourism4As Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha advised agencies to prepare for an increase in the number of tourists visiting Thailand this year, the Thai and Myanmar governments reached an agreement to jointly promote maritime tourism, as the two countries are home to some of the world’s most beautiful tropical islands and beaches in and along the Andaman Sea.

Government officials and members of the private sector from both Myanmar and Thailand engaged in a conference in Phuket last week to sign a memorandum of understanding on tourism, mutual resource development and expanding the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Connect policy. The policy seeks to build and promote a sustainable development model for the region.

Maritime tourism was a leading focus of the conference. Thailand and Myanmar share a long coastline on the eastern rim of the Indian Ocean in the Andaman Sea. Cruise ships and yachts regularly visit the Thai coast but have only recently discovered Myanmar and its waters. Thailand’s neighbor, however, has yet to develop the infrastructure needed to become a tourism powerhouse, despite having many attractions.

The Thai coast and its islands, such as Phuket, Krabi and the Similans, are legendary and extremely popular tourist destinations. Myanmar’s stretch of the same area also has some dazzling beaches and resorts, such Ngapali, Ngwe Saung and Kanthaya Beach, but on the whole remains relatively undeveloped.

That means Myanmar has high potential to increase tourism and the emergence of a stronger Myanmar tourism sector could also benefit Thailand by attracting more visitors to the region, where Thailand is a gateway destination aside from boasting its own attractions.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Pongpanu Svetarundra said the memorandum of understanding would pave the way to create a working group from the private sectors of both countries that will, among other objectives, help Myanmar’s tourism operators to learn from counterparts in Thailand. The Kingdom has been a tourism success story for nearly three decades.
The Myanmar delegation proposed upgrading connectivity with Thailand, especially land, sea, and air transport. They were particularly interested in expanding air routes connecting Kawthaung-Myeik with Bangkok, as well as Myeik-Dawei and Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told government agencies and the Thai private sector to be ready for another rise in tourist arrivals this year. The prime minister cited forecasts by the Kasikorn Research Center and the Center for Economic and Business Forecasting of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce that predict foreign tourists will surge this year from the 32.6 million of 2016. K-Research predicted that foreign visitors will number 33.5-34.5 million in 2017, generating income of $50 billion, up from $46.5 billion last year.

“Overall positive conditions, from Thailand’s economic prospects to the global economic recovery, will be a boon to global tourism, including Thailand,” said Prayut. “We, the government and private sector alike, have to prepare for the influx of tourist arrivals, particularly in terms of infrastructure and related facilities.”