IFC lends to limbo ho­tel

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­times.com

A de­vel­oper of a Ba­gan “limbo ho­tel” is set to get a boost with the help of a loan from the World Bank’s In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion.

ONE of Ba­gan’s “limbo ho­tels” is to be ex­panded with the help of a loan from the World Bank’s In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion.

The IFC has lent US$13.5 mil­lion to United In­ter­na­tional Group, which owns Amata Ho­tel Group, to ex­tend its properties in Ba­gan and Inle Lake, U Win Aung, manag­ing direc­tor of United In­ter­na­tional Group, has told The Myan­mar Times.

United In­ter­na­tional Group and the IFC signed the loan agree­ments, which have a 10-year re­pay­ment pe­riod at in­ter­na­tional stan­dard in­ter­est rates, on Oc­to­ber 22 at Amata Bou­tique House Ho­tel in Ba­gan, he said.

“We will ex­tend our two properties with the help of the IFC,” he said.

The IFC de­scribes it­self as the largest global de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tion fo­cused ex­clu­sively on the pri­vate sec­tor, “help­ing de­vel­op­ing coun­tries achieve sus­tain­able growth by fi­nanc­ing in­vest­ment, pro­vid­ing ad­vi­sory ser­vices to busi­nesses and gov­ern­ments, and mo­bil­is­ing cap­i­tal in the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial mar­kets”.

The Ba­gan prop­erty, which is in­tended to have 144 rooms, has been listed as one of the 42 ho­tels where the Depart­ment of Ar­chae­ol­ogy, Na­tional Mu­seum and Li­brary has sus­pended con­struc­tion pend­ing a de­ci­sion on their sta­tus, U Win Aung said.

The long-run­ning “limbo ho­tels” prob­lem arose when the 42 hote­liers were cleared to build in Ba­gan by the ar­chae­ol­ogy depart­ment in 2013, but sub­se­quently or­dered to stop work and not to take in guests.

The guest­houses, mostly mod­est es­tab­lish­ments run by lo­cal res­i­dents, are deemed too close to Ba­gan’s famed tem­ples, a fac­tor that could put at risk the city’s bid to be in­cluded in UN­ESCO’s World Her­itage list­ing. Man­dalay Re­gion MPs have dis­cussed rec­om­mend­ing changes to a 1998 law so as to clar­ify the sta­tus of the ho­tels, some of which are still un­der con­struc­tion.

The Inle Lake prop­erty will ex­pand from 70 to 130 rooms, said U Win Aung. “Now we’re await­ing per­mis­sion from the Min­istry of Re­li­gious Af­fairs and Cul­ture to con­tinue con­struc­tion. Both will be in­ter­na­tion­al­stan­dard five-star ho­tels,” he said.

Amata will in­tro­duce their sec­ond “Awinka” brand in 10 cities, in­clud­ing Hpa-an, Mawlamyine, Loikaw, Pin­daya, Nga­pali, Ngwe Saung, Nyaung Shwe, Pyin Oo Lwin and Kalaw, as bud­get ho­tels aimed mainly at lo­cal res­i­dents, said U Win Aung.

“But the qual­ity will not be re­duced even though room rates will range from $40 to $50 for the same stan­dard of room,” he said, adding that the 10 new ho­tels would be opened in 2018 or 2019. The firm will also de­velop high-end re­sorts in the Myeik ar­chi­pel­ago, Tanintharyi Re­gion.

“We’ve al­ready got per­mis­sion from the Myan­mar In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion to de­velop is­land 20- to 25room re­sorts at Myeik start­ing this year,” he said. In an Oc­to­ber 22 press re­lease vis­it­ing IFC ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and CEO Philippe Le Houérou said that the loan was a boost to Myan­mar’s tourism in­dus­try.

“Tourism, as a leading driver of eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation, can play a ma­jor role in poverty re­duc­tion in Myan­mar, par­tic­u­larly for women and young peo­ple,” he was quoted in the state­ment. “But, for this to hap­pen, the sec­tor must be de­vel­oped in a sus­tain­able man­ner.”

The re­lease did not men­tion the sta­tus of the “limbo” ho­tel and the IFC did not re­turn a re­quest for com­ment on the is­sue by press time yes­ter­day.

‘We’re await­ing per­mis­sion from the Min­istry ... to con­tinue con­struc­tion.’

U Win Aung United In­ter­na­tional Group

Photo: Staff

Tourists take a horse-drawn cart at Ba­gan.

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