Myanmar’s renewed interest for international tourism


With Yangon served out of Kuala Lumpur, low-cost carrier AirAsia completes its presence in all ASEAN countries from its main gateway in Malaysia. Yangon was indeed the last metropolis not being served by the Malaysian carrier. Flights will start on July 20 with the destination being served on a daily basis.

Yangon is already served by Thai AirAsia out of Bangkok up to twice a day, but the opening of Kuala Lumpur confirms the interest for the Burmese junta to open up the country more to international tourism. In the last two months, Myanmar’s government gave the green light to Vietnam airlines for a new route between Hanoi and Yangon. In early May, the country made the announcement of providing visa on arrivals to travelers at international airports. Allowing Asia’s largest low-cost carrier to now fly to Myanmar’s economic capital is another sign of Myanmar’s slow awakening to the outside world. The country can probably be considered as ASEAN’s last tourism frontier, as it only welcomes each year some 300,000 international travelers.

At each edition of the ASEAN Travel Forum, Myanmar’s officials have constantly given to media a target of a million international tourists. But in reality, the figure could be more interpreted as pure propaganda as Burma’s military regime never provided the real means to achieve such a number of travelers. The recent initiatives show that the country is probably moving in the right direction, certainly not by pure commitment to tourism development, but under economic constraints due to last year’s financial crisis.

For AirAsia, the new route confirms the airline’s positioning as the first truly ASEAN carrier. It currently serves the region with over 1,530 weekly flights from its nine air bases and has been a pioneer by developing new routes. The AirAsia group was the first carrier in the region to open routes such as Kuala Lumpur-Banda Aceh, Phuket-Jakarta, or Vientiane-Kuala Lumpur. Two years ago, an AirAsia aircraft Airbus A320 was even repainted with the ASEAN logo. The new route is a further sign of AirAsia turning into one of ASEAN best ambassadors around the world.