Capital tries its luck at drawing MICE visitors
In another bid to draw foreigners to Nay Pyi Taw and promote the empty capital as a destination, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is pushing conferences, expos and events.
THE government has again announced a series of initiatives to help draw tourists to Nay Pyi Taw, including stepping up its efforts to lure foreign travellers looking for a destination to hold events and conferences.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital on September 28, on the eve of World Tourism Day, U Tint Thwin, director general at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said Nay Pyi Taw had a lot to offer both foreign and local tourists.
A marketing team is to boost efforts to promote the capital as a location for MICE – meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, he said.
“International tourists can come to attend a meeting and then they can visit the rest of Myanmar,” said U Tint Thwin.
The government was also running tours of parliament for local youth groups, he said, adding that the capital has historical significance that it should leverage to draw locals.
“Our ministry is cooperating with the hluttaw and arranging trips for youths during their holidays after the rainy season to learn all about the hluttaw, which is deciding on important matters for the country,” he said.
“Our ancient kings also regarded this place as a place of nobility so local travellers also can come to Nay Pyi Taw to learn all about this,” he said, referring to the area.
Nay Pyi Taw saw a hotel build-up in the lead up to 2014 ASEAN events while it held the chair that year for the regional block. But many of the facilities have been underutilised since.
The government last year began pushing Nay Pyi Taw as a potential destination for conferences and events. But Yangon is still the overwhelming preference as an entry point for tourist arrivals. In 2015, 1.2 million travellers arrived via Yangon, compared to just 13,800 in the capital, according to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
Speaking at last week’s press event, Daw Khin San Win, deputy director general from the directorate of Hotels and Tourism, said that increased competition is beginning to see prices for accommodation drop in the capital.
“Now hotels are reducing their room prices competitively, without needing to be urged by us,” she said, adding that the average price of rooms had dropped by about 20 percent.
There are more than 50 hotels with over 5000 rooms, she said, with the industry working together to promote the area.
“We have done a lot of marketing over the past three years, aiming to get people to hold meetings and exhibitions in Nay Pyi Taw,” said Daw Khin San Win. “We will continue with this strategy, so we can enhance the reputation of Nay Pyi Daw as a destination for MICE.”
But not everyone agrees with the capital’s tourism potential.
“Nay Pyi Taw is like a dead city,” said U Aye Kyaw, managing director of Ruby Land Tourism Services.
It takes more than a few conference halls, he said, to lure foreign visitors to a MICE destination.
“There needs to be facilities with shopping spots and restaurants too,” he said. “And we can’t compete with Thailand and Vietnam on hotel room prices, even though they said they have lowered prices.”
Daw Zar Chi Thet, operations manager at Ayarwaddy Legend Travels and Tours, welcomed the government’s initiatives, but said there was still much to do in the capital before foreign visitors saw it as an international conference destination.
“Lower room prices are one of just many factors needed to help promote a MICE industry,” she said. “There should be more cheap direct flights to Nay Pyi Taw, for example.”
Additional entertainment facilities were also important to the industry, Daw Zar Chi Thet added.
“Tourists have told us that there is no place to go when the events are finished,” she said. “It is not enough to have only lower hotel room prices, but we need better transportation and other facilities to promote a tourism industry in Nay Pyi Taw.”
‘Nay Pyi Taw is like a dead city.’
U Aye Kyaw Ruby Land Tourism Services
A jaywalker dares to cross a Nay Pyi Taw road. The city is known for its impressive infrastructure, and less appreciated for its cultural highlights.