By Kyaw Htike Soe
The years-long armed conflicts, poor infrastructure and transportation network, and fewer investments have impeded Kachin State’s development. Kachin State is famed for its abundant natural resources such as gold, timber, amber and jade. In addition, Kachin State has many unspoiled tourist attraction spots such as Mt Hkakaborazi, which are the only snow-capped mountains to be found in Southeast Asia and the Indawgyi Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in Southeast Asia.
With its mix of culture, history, and undamaged natural beauty, Kachin State can become one of Myanmar’s top emerging tourist destinations. Local visitors are allowed to freely travel to Myitsone, the confluence of May Kha and Malikha Rivers, the snow-capped mountains in Putao Township, the Hukaung tiger sanctuary in Tanai Township, and Lido Road built in the Second World War. The Indawgyi Lake is famous for the Shwe Myintzu Pagoda and it takes four hours from Myitkyina to Indawgyi by car. The Indawgyi area is being conserved with the help of a German development partner, and majority of foreign visitors come from Germany, said an administrator of the Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary. Two towns and 33 villages are located within the Indawgyi area, which was designated an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013, a Ramsar Site in 2016, and a Biosphere Reserve in 2017.
Over 10, 000 international travelers visited the Indawgyi Lake in Mohnyin Township in 2019, according to the figure from the Indawgyi Wetland Education Centre. The tourists enjoy boat rides in the lake, trek the mountain near the lake, and observe bird species and monkeys, and traditional customs of indigenous people, said an official from the Indawgyi Wetland Education Center. Meanwhile, tourist arrivals to Kachin State declined to 12,000 in 2019, a sharp drop in numbers of tourists visiting Myanmar’s northernmost state. But the number of Chinese visitors who came to Kachin State through the land borders with border passes is skyrocketing. Chinese tourists who visited Kachin State by using border passes rose to around 165,000 in 2019.
Despite the number of Chinese travelers to Kachin State is on the rise significantly, there is a lot of room for improvement of tourism industry. “Kachin State is a very promising area for the businessmen who want to operate tourism industry. Kachin State has plenty of natural resources including fantastic natural scenery, social status and traditional culture of the ethnic people. If tourism industry is developed in Kachin State, there will be more job opportunities for local people inevitably,” said an official who declined to be identified from the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism. He continued that the DHT has been conducting hotel service training courses in Kachin State due to its potential tourism industry development. The DHT turned out roughly 1,000 trainees during the period from January 2016 to November 2019, creating many job opportunities for local people.
The DHT also conducts language proficiency courses and basic tour guide training courses for human resource development. In addition, the local government is attempting its utmost to woo more tourists to the area by organizing invitational sports events and showcasing natural sceneries and traditional food. At the same time, the local government has been creating new destinations and ecotourism for globetrotters. Local authorities are exerting efforts to further expand travel routes and promote ecotourism industry in Kachin State. Tourists travel to Kachin State to enjoy the natural scenery of riverbed villages, visit elephant camps and observe living style of marine workers. The local government is very interested in promoting the ecotourism and community-based tourism in the area.
The number of hotels in Kachin State has increased to 29 with a capacity of 860 rooms in 2018 from 26 with a capacity of 714 rooms in 2017. There are five hotels under construction in Kachin State, according to the DHT. More than 24,000 tourists visited in 2018, an increase of the number of globetrotters over 10,000 compared with the same period previous year. Nearly 109,000 travelers including 13,563 foreigners visited Kachin State in 2017 whereas 103,972 visitors including 24,421 globetrotters traveled to the area in 2016.