Myanmar tourism trailblazers Memories Group had bought a minority share in Strand Hotel International Ltd. The US$3.19 million investment gives the Group stakes in a cruise ship and three hotels, most notably the world-famous Strand Hotel, an iconic landmark on the Yangon waterfront, which was built during the British colonial era in 1901, according to a release on 3 May.
The new partnership also includes: the 4-star Inya Lake Hotel, which was built in 1958-62 on a 27-acre lakeside property in northern Yangon; the modern Hotel G Yangon in the city center; and the Strand Cruise, a 200-foot luxury ship with 25 cabins, which operates sailings on the Ayeyarwady River.
“The acquisition is in line with our plans to own, develop and/or operate more hotels and lodges so as to expand our hotel business segment,” said Memories Group CEO Cyrus Pun. “I remain convinced of the enormous tourism potential of Myanmar and I am keen to drive the expansion of our hotel business footprint across the country in order to further cement our position as the leading tourism company in Myanmar.”
The Strand and its affiliates join an ever-expanding portfolio at Memories Group, which in the past six months has overseen the grand opening of three hotels in Myanmar – 4-star Awei Metta, overlooking the Pun Hlaing Golf Course in Yangon; the 72-key Hotel Suggati on the riverfront in Mawlamyaing; and Awei Pila, a 24-villa resort on a remote island in the Mergui Archipelago. In early 2018, the Group also acquired Burma Boating, a yachting and sailing operator in the archipelago.
The Myanmar-based tourism company, which is listed on the Singapore stock exchange, also owns Balloons Over Bagan, which in addition to its hot-air balloon flights over both the ancient temples of Bagan and popular resort Inle Lake, earlier this year announced the launch of balloon adventures in Loikaw, a remote outpost in eastern Myanmar which is home to the famed “lock-neck” ladies of Kayah State.
Boutique eco-lodges Keinnara Loikaw and Keinnara Hpa-an are the other resorts under the Memories Group brand.
Myanmar’s tourism potential remains largely untapped. According to the country’s hotel and tourism ministry, Myanmar attracted some 3.55 million foreign visitors last year, a far cry from the 38.27 million tourists that neighboring Thailand recorded.
Until recently, much of Myanmar, previously known as Burma, was off-limits to tourists due to the country’s political and economic isolation. However, the government has now embraced an open-door policy towards visitors, viewing the development of the tourism sector as an economic priority. With this backing, Myanmar’s fledgling tourism industry looks set to challenge many of the region’s top destinations, thanks to a wide choice of historical sites, colorful ethnic cultures, and natural splendors such as rainforests and undiscovered tropical beaches which are growing more accessible every year.—GNLM