Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Airlines Scramble to Land in Myanmar, but Visas Still up in the Air

Foreign airline companies big and small are falling over one another in a battle for landing rights in Myanmar to tap into Southeast Asia’s new and rapidly rising tourist destination.

Myanmar may still be a long way behind its neighbor Thailand in visitor numbers, but since President U Thein Sein began opening up the country two years ago, tourism has become one of its biggest businesses.

More than 20 foreign airlines now fly direct to several cities in Myanmar, ranging from the big German holiday package charter operator Condor to Thailand’s tiny Nok Air.

Major European airline companies are still hesitant about starting up services directly to Myanmar. For example, while the Middle East’s Qatar Air flies out of London to Yangon via its Doha hub base, British Airways flies to Bangkok, where passengers have to transfer to Bangkok Airways for a Yangon connection. Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi does the same out of London.

Both Singapore Airlines and its budget carrier subsidiary Silk Air connect with Yangon, vying with budget line Jetstar, which is owned by Australia’s major airline Qantas.

China Eastern Airlines and All Nippon Airways, or ANA, fly direct between Tokyo and Yangon.

Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi Logistics Corporation have launched a joint venture cargo business to and from Myanmar.

Other regional airlines now servicing Myanmar include Malaysia Airlines, Laos Airlines and Vietnam Airlines, while another major carrier using its budget subsidiary for Myanmar routes is Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, whose Dragon Air is expected to attract mostly Chinese passengers.

Another issue, according to TTR Weekly, is when Myanmar will relax its visa requirements for citizens of fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) member states.

“Although tourism is opening up, there has been no clear indication when Myanmar will comply with the Asean requirement that all 10 member states should allow visa free entry for up to 14 days for Asean region citizens,” the magazine said.

The Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board in June told a regional tourism conference in Bangkok that a review of the present rules would be made “soon.”

Read the full article at the Irrawaddy.

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