A tanintharyi development committee, operating under the tourism ministry and chaired by local tycoon Serge Pun, is seeking assistance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for the upgrade of infrastructure in Myeik archipelago to boost sustainable tourism, a committee member told The Myanmar Times.
The Myeik archipelago is made up of a cluster of more than 800 largely untouched islands that hold huge potential as a draw for international visitors.
“Tanintharyi region is quite big and wide and the infrastructure is not good yet, such as the airport facilities and transport to and from the islands. These are very important in the tourism development. Hence we need the assistance from international financial organisations such as the IFC. We also need to cooperate with local investors as well,” said U Khin Aung Htun.
The committee’s chair, Serge Pun, is the chair of Yangon-listed First Myanmar Investment (FMI) and Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings.
FMI is involved in both tourism and island development. Yoma Strategic and FMI are in the process of spinning off their tourism businesses into a separate Myanmar-tourism focused firm that is likely to be listed on the Singapore stock exchange. FMI also entered into a joint venture last year with Manaung Public Company Limited – which is majority-owned by Manaung Island residents – to develop that island’s infrastructure.
They will invite international investors who are interested in the Myeik tourism industry and its infrastructure development, U Yan Win, chair of Myanmar Tourism Federation told The Myanmar Times.
“The Tanintharyi tourism development committee will also invite investors from other countries. We will always accept people if they invest according to the law.
“The government has already opened up places such as Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan for tourism investment. According to the ASEAN economic policy, people can feel free to invest if they want to,” he explained.
Of the hundreds of islands across the Myeik archipelago, the Myanmar Investment Commission has only opened 12 islands to local developers. Some have started to work on the projects. Others have simply acquired the rights to develop but have not started the projects so far.
The current hotel and hospitality capacity is not adequate for the demand from visitors. In response, the committee had decided to prioritise which islands should be allocated for hotel or resort projects, and which ones should be for conservation instead of tourism, U Khin Aung Htun said.
“The room number is not enough if they want to truly develop tourism. We need more rooms, diving camps and training schools for diving.
“Generally, travellers will tour around the area, visiting numerous islands and appreciating the scenery. Some will go fishing and undertake other activities. Many employment opportunities will be created as a result,” he added.
In January 2017, The Myanmar Times reported that the committee was drawing up a master plan for sustainable tourism in the region.
U Khin Aung Htun told The Myanmar Times that they will implement the master plan and are negotiating with the related ministries about upgrading the Kawthaung airport.