New Hotels In Myanmar, A New Tourist E-Visa And Plans For A New Gateway Airport

As new hotels in Myanmar add to the room supply and new flights increase air access to and from the destination, plans are underway to improve the country’s airport infrastructure that includes a new primary international gateway airport north of Yangon.

The Department of Civil Aviation announced in late October that the Singapore-Japan consortium Yongnam-CAPE JGC had been selected to build the US$1.45 billion Hanthawaddy International Airport at a site 80 km north of Yangon.

It follows a breakdown in negotiations this year between Incheon International Airport Corp – the South Korean consortium that won the tender for the airport deal in August of 2013 – and Myanmar government officials after which both sides agreed to cancel the talks.

Yongnam-CAPE JGC had been selected as a reserve company in the tender announcement.

Yongnam-CAPE JGC will receive a loan from the Japanese government to cover 49 per cent of the cost of building the new Hanthawaddy airport, according to the civil aviation department’s director general Win Swe Tun. It will obtain US$517 million in private lending and invest US$222 million, reports aid.

At the time of the tender announcement in 2013, the department said Hanthawaddy International Airport will become the primary gateway to Myanmar and in the future all international airlines will be shifted there, leaving Yangon International Airport to handle domestic flights and general aviation services.

The new airport would have a capacity of 12 million passengers per year. Yangon International Airport was currently handling 2.7 million passengers, an annual capacity which would rise to 6 million following a US$150-170 million upgrade, the department said.

Plans were also in the pipeline to transform Mandalay International Airport into a logistics hub with the aim of creating direct transportation of goods to and from other countries in Asia and Europe. The country’s second largest city and situated some 700 km north of Yangon, Mandalay is an economic hub and considered the centre of Burmese culture.

Many of the tourists who visit Myanmar enjoy a stay in Yangon, which is the country’s largest city although it’s not the capital – that is Nay Pyi taw. The city serves up intriguing historical sights, a busy pace of life and accommodation that includes some of the finest colonial hotels in Asia – such as The Strand Yangon built in 1901 and Belmond Governor’s Residence dating from the 1920s. Alongside luxury hotels in Yangon like these, there’s also a choice of budget and three to five star Yangon hotels.

Myanmar is seeing record tourism performance. In 2013 over 2 million tourists visited the destination for the first time and the hotel and tourism ministry has said the 2014 figure could surpass 3 million. Earlier it reported that almost 2 million tourists had visited the destination in the first nine months of 2014.

New hotels in Myanmar are opening and in doing so adding to the choice of Yangon hotels and other cities’ accommodation, and some of the region’s airlines have launched new flights to several points in the country and/or boosted frequencies on existing routes. Most recently, Bangkok Airways added a four times weekly service between Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and Yangon (operating on a Sunday, Monday, Friday and Saturday) and three times weekly service between Chiang Mai and Mandalay (operating on a Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). Both routes use an ATR72-500 aircraft with 70 seat capacity.

The Thailand-based airline also flies from Chiang Mai to Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw, and from Bangkok to Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.

Myanmar introduced a new online tourist visa application system in September 2014, at www.evisa.moip.gov.mm To apply for an E-visa, an applicant’s passport needs to be valid for at least six months and one colour photo taken during the past three months is required, along with payment of the US$50 fee (non refundable) by Visa or MasterCard.

Application processing time is up to five working days. The E-visa is valid for a stay of up to 28 days from the date of arrival in Myanmar, with a validity period of 90 days from its issuing date. It can be used for a single entry (re-entry requires another E-visa) and currently only through Yangon International Airport, with authorities saying other ports of entry would soon also offer the E-visa.

A permanent residence system for foreigners is set to be launched in December 2014. Officials say the system is planned at attracting foreign experts, investors and spouses married with Myanmar nationals including former nationals of Myanmar living abroad.

The duration of permitted stay will start with a five year term, which can be extended for another five years upon expiration of the first five-year stay in the country.