The Mergui Archipelago is a stunning group of 800 islands located in the Andaman Sea. If it were located in nearby Thailand, or a little further adrift in Malaysia, you can imagine the islands would be brimming with visitors. But this is Myanmar, and the group of islands, like the majority of the country, remains virtually undeveloped in tourism terms.
That however looks set to change after the Myanmar Government said it would give the go ahead for tourism resorts to operate in the area, with development expected to begin by the end of the year.
According to DPA, Myanmar’s deputy minister for hotels and tourism Sai Kyaw Ohn, said some 27 local companies and joint ventures were awaiting final approval from the Myanmar Investment Commission for new projects on the islands.
“We hope MIC will allow all 27 firms to set up hotels and resorts by December,” he told DPA.
“Two joint ventures have been already granted approval to build resorts on the islands.”
Sai Kyaw Ohn said Mergui hopes to particularly appeal to eco-tourists and divers.
“The region has a lot of potential to be a new tourism destination as most of the islands are untouched and have coral reefs,” he said.
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Although they acknowledge the benefits tourism could bring to the area, environmental groups have urged the government to establish and observe environmental guidelines, DPA reported.
“The projects will destroy the natural beauty and ways of life in the area if the authorities and developers do not take environmental aspects into consideration,” said Win Myo Thu, chairman of local environmental NGO Ecodev.
Data from the country’s ministry of hotel and tourism shows that last year, only 2,612 tourists visited the islands.
Myanmar recently topped a Skyscanner list of the hottest destinations for Australian travellers in 2015, with flight searches to the country increasing by nearly 60 percent over the last three years. So watch this space.
Would you be interested in travelling to Mergui?