Dec 17, 2014
Vietnam’s southern province of Binh Duong recently inaugurated its first international bus service to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
According to local media report, the service is operated by Phuong Trinh Joint Stock Company to meet a rising demand for reliable transport. Traders, leisure travellers and residents seeking medical check-ups will be the main customers.
Phuong Trinh Company director, Vu Quang Thanh, said the company will offer six roundtrips between Binh Duong and Phnom Penh from 0500 to 2300 daily. The return fare is USD23.
Binh Duong, together with the southern province of Dong Nai and Ho Chi Minh City, are amongst the most attractive destinations in Vietnam for foreign direct investment.
In the past 11 months, it ranked third in terms of disbursed foreign direct investment with USD1.42 billion after northern Thai Nguyen province and Ho Chi Minh City.
The province is 48 km from HCMC and 231 km Phnom Penh.
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has launched a new Korean version of its website in a bid to diversify its content and promote the country’s tourism to Korean tourists.
The new version is available on VNAT’s website at www.vietnamtourism.com and is part of the National Tourism Promotion Programme.
The edition will provide Korean tourists with basic tips on how to behave and enjoy Vietnam, travel information on scenic spots, tourist services and background on festivals and events.
According to VNAT, the move should support Vietnam’s promotions to Korea’s outbound tourism market.
More tourism promotions have been organised in recent years to attract South Koreans and direct flights between the two countries have made it more convenient for travellers.
Introduced in December 1997, the official VNAT website is a portal providing a wide range of tourist information, in various language versions including Vietnamese, English, French, Chinese, and Japanese.
Laos’ national museum, Ho Phra Keo, urgently needs public donations to fund restoration.
The Lao News Agency quoted Vientiane’s vice mayor, Saythong Keoduangdy, as saying the public was being encouraged to make donations for the renovation of Ho Phra Keo.
“This is the third time that Ho Phra Keo has been renovated. The first renovation took place during King Anouvong’s reign in 1816 and the second one during King SouvanaPhoumma’s reign between 1936 and 1942,” he said.
The building needs extensive repairs especially at the apex of the main hall, prompting the government to establish a National Committee to be responsible for restoration work.
It will cost around USD2.5 million and should be completed by the end of 2015.
Donations can be made at the Ho Phra Keo temple, which is located across the street from the Presidential Palace in Vientiane.
Since 1942 Ho PhraKeo has been the home of the National Museum.
Hor Phra Keo was formerly a temple constructed in 1565 as the personal chapel for the royal family, and was the home of the Emerald Buddha after it was brought there from North Siam (Thailand), which was part of the Lanna kingdom at the time.
The sacred jade Buddha image was later confiscated by an invading Siamese army in 1778 and now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. The temple in Vientiane was transformed into a museum.
A vintage steam train will ply tourists between Bagan and Kyaukpadaung in Mandalay starting next week.
The train will cash in on Mandalay’s popularity as the gateway town to visit the historic sites of Bagan and particularly rail fans, who enjoy stream train travel.
Very little advance notice has been given to overseas tour operators so it is unlikely that the train’s sales team will be able to muster group business in the short-term.
Tour operators are likely to adopt a cautious approach to see if the train is here for the long-term, or just another experiment that lacks a marketing plan, or sales expertise to secure advance bookings through the international travel trade.
Price is a another consideration. The train will begin a single weekly service, every Tuesdays, effective 16 December and the 110-km return journey will cost a staggering USD250 per person.
The train will carry up to 120 passengers at a time and is pitched at high-end foreign tourists, looking for a different mode of travel to Bagan that harks back to Myanmar’s colonial history.
Bright View Steam Locomotive Tours director, Zaw Weik, was quoted by the Irrawaddy media as saying: “I am not only seeking business success, but also the improvement of the tourism industry.”
Included in the price is a short stop in a local village, meals and transportation by car to and from Mount Popa once passengers alight at Kyaukpadaung.
A typical return journey from Bagan to Mount Popa by private taxi costs USD34.
Bagan Tourist Guide Organisation president, Zaw Win Cho, told the Irrawaddy that the locomotive would be a popular draw card despite the ticket price.“I think the cost is high, but wealthy tourists will pay. There is a one hour hot air balloon ride here that costs USD360, but tourists still fork out the cash.”
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Dec 16, 2014
State-owned airline, Myanmar Airways, adopts a new name as “Myanmar National Airlines (MNA)” to re-launch domestic service 15 December.
The airline’s managing director, Captain Than Tun, said in a statement, last week, that it was the first government operation to corporatise.
“We’re excited to be part of Myanmar unfolding history today. Myanmar National Airlines has a great opportunity to completely modernise and change the way we serve our country and beyond.”
It will require major surgery including a massive restructuring of the top management to realises that ambition. It is very unlikely that passengers will see any difference in quality, or service standards whatever name the airline adopts.
The airline’s website www.myanmaairways.aero will begin to allow online bookings and payments using a booking engine. It is probably the last airline in the region to take that elementary step.
It will also launch modern check-in system in Yangon with plans to extend them to Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay and Nyaung U, over the next few weeks. Modern means upgrading from manual to electronic check-in systems.
In its statement the airline said it would issue a fixed flight schedule and further upgrade airline services by providing comprehensive staff training.
The airline serves 26 airports in Myanmar. It has a fleet 10 aircraft, but intends to add 10 Boeing 737s and six ATR72-600 aircrafts to enable it to launch international services.
More details should have been released on the make up of the management team and the marketing and sales strategy that will be needed to ensure the larger Boeing 737s can operate profitably on international routes. The airline has zero experience in sustaining a profitable international network.
However, it did make quite a fuss about its intentions to restore a 150-year-old heritage office building beside the Strand Hotel “to its former glory.”
Myanma Airways was founded in 1948 under the name “Union of Burma Airways”.
The flights were operated to Singapore, Kathmandu and later to Bangkok, Calcutta, Dhaka, Hong Kong and Jakarta until 1993. It has a very irractic safety record and has been largely ignored by international tour operators unless it was the only travel option.
Dec 4, 2014
A bridge linking the Mekong River’s Khong island to mainland Champassak province in Laos was officially opened, earlier this week.
It should help to boost trade and tourism in the far southern corner of Laos, by making it easier to transfer from the large Mekong River island to the rest of the province, without needing to use ferries.
The Lao News Agency reported the 718-metre long bridge, which was largely funded by the Chinese government, will enable inhabitants of the 10 villages on Khong Island (Khong district) to connect with the rest of the province that borders the river bank.
Visitors to the island, which is a popular tourist spot, can transfer by bus rather than using small ferries.
Public Works and Transport Minister, Dr Bounchan Sinthavong, was quoted as saying that Chinese financial support was very important to develop the province’s economy.
“The bridge will make travel to and from the island much easier. It will significantly contribute to greater socio-economic development, trade, investment, and tourism in the southern region.”
Built at a cost of more than USD34.12 million, 95% of the financing was provided by a long-term, low interest loan from China’s Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank). The remaining 5%, amounting to USD1.7 million, was provided by the Lao government. The bridge, which is 11 metres wide, took 34 months to complete.
Champassak is a province in southwestern Laos, and shares borders with Thailand and Cambodia. Freshwater dolphins and the province’s many waterfalls are the main tourist attractions.
1:57 AM Japan & Myanmar, Myanmar, Myanmar Airways International, Yangon International Airport 0 comments
Myanmar Airways International believes hiring Japanese firms to manage Mandalay International Airport will increase the airport’s competitiveness and allow it to grow in tandem with Yangon, the main aviation gateway.
The airline reflects the general viewpoint of most airlines serving the country. They want to see Mandalay turned into a major hub for passenger and cargo traffic serving major points throughout Asia.
MAI general manager, Daw Aye Mra Tha, was quoted by Myanmar Times as saying that the airline would like to add cargo aircraft flights once the airport is upgraded.
“This part of our future plans, but it depends on the upgrades. Currently we only have cargo services to and from Guangzhou in southern China from Mandalay.”
Business people said the northern airport has lots of potential, if upgrades continue as planned.
Mandalay International Airport will receive an upgrade after two Japanese firms and a Myanmar-focused company signed a 30-year concession agreement to operate and rehabilitate the airport.
The airport has been grossly neglected and its management failed to capitalise on Mandalay’s status as the second largest city in the county a major hub for commerce.
Japan’s Jalux and Mitsubishi Corporation and a subsidiary of Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd inked a deal, 17 November, to take over management of the airport effective March 2015.
Jalux and Mitsubishi each own 45.5% of the venture, while Yoma owns the remaining 9%.
The airport’s upgrade will cost USD100 million. Once completed it could capitalise on Mandalay’s status as a transport hub feeding exports to countries in Asia and Europe, according to Department of Civil Aviation general director U Win Swe Thu.
Mandalay stands at an important crossroads for both roads and rivers. Home to a port for river cargo vessels, produce from a vast area of the central region arrives at the city for distribution.
The airport deal is the first for the country and brings to the table private equity and foreign expertise to manage a major airport, the report said.
Mandalay International Airport opened in 2000. The terminal has the capacity to handle 1,000 passenger arrivals and 1,000 departures per hour, up to 3 million per year. Following expansion the airport could be raised to 15 million passengers a year.
Currently Bangkok Airways, SilkAir, Golden Myanmar, AirAsia, China Eastern Airlines and Myanmar Airways International all operate regional flights connecting Mandalay to Bangkok, Singapore, Kunming in China and Gaya in India.
Nov 26, 2014
Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture says the ancient city of Bagan could be nominated for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List within three years.
Local media reported that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is considering the nomination of Bagan to its global heritage list.
In June, the Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Hanlin and Beikthano became the first sites in Myanmar to be included on the heritage list.
Last month, officials from the ministry and UNESCO met international experts in Bagan to discuss how the city could be protected from ill-considered development caused by a sharp rise in tourist arrivals.
UNESCO has threatened to discontinue recognition at some important sites in Southeast Asia, including Luang Prabang in Laos, if checks and balances are not introduced to manage tourism flows.
During the Bagan meetings it was decided that an improved inventory of all the historical pagodas and temples at the site, as well as stricter enforcement of heritage laws, would be required before the site could be nominated, according to the culture ministry.
The Myanmar Times quoted Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, deputy general director, U Thein Lwin, as saying experts from Japan and Italy were helping officials come up with a plan to maintain the site in line with international standards.
It could take up to three years for Bagan to achieve full recognition by UNESCO.
A 1998 law bans development inside cultural heritage sites, but some hotels opened in prohibited areas before the law was enacted, while others were allowed later in direct contravention of the law.
Another task is cataloguing the large number of historical monuments in Bagan. In 1975, the number of identified structures stood at 2230, but rose to 3122 by 1997 and now stands at 3312.
One of the most important archaeological sites in Asia, Bagan is expected to attract large numbers of tourists in coming years, with arrivals forecast to increase to 5 million in 2015. UNESCO listing is likely to give visitors numbers a further boost.
The Bagan region attracted 200,000 tourists last year compared to 150,000 visits in 2013.