RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is planning to open a hotel zone in western Chin State, the poorest and least developed part of the country, according to a ministry official.
The official, who requested anonymity, said the ministry chose Chin State for the hotel zone in an effort to promote ecotourism in the rugged frontier region.
“Chin State saw an increase in the number of visitors both local and international. It has the natural beauty and ecotourism sites, although it is less developed,” he said.
He said the plan fell under the ministry’s broader Tourism Master Plan covering 2013-2020, which envisions similar hotel zones in other emerging tourism destinations.
“We will open the hotel zones in the places with tourism potential. Chin State has the potential with its growing number of visitors, so hotels and tourism businesses should set up there,” the official said.
He said that the hotel zone would include other service industries geared toward tourism, from tour guide companies to transport outfits.
“The regional government is negotiating with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to open the hotel zone in Chin State,” Ram Mang, Chin State’s minister for economic planning, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
He said the hotel zone is slated to open in Kanpetlet Township near Natma Taung National Park, one of the most visited places in sparsely populated Chin State. Preliminary data from the national census this year put the state’s population at 478,690 people.
Natma Taung National Park spreads across Kanpetlet, Mindat and Matupi townships. It contains Burma’s third-highest mountain, Natma Taung, which was known as Mount Victoria during the British colonial era. The area is known for its highly diverse plant life, and has been identified as a “priority candidate” for recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“The park is famous among tourists and locals for its ecotourism and the number of visitors is increasing year by year,” said Tin Mya Soe, the administrator of the Natma Taung National Park, adding that bird watchers made up many of the visitors to the area.
Tourism numbers nationwide are surging. January through July 2014 tallied 1,604,746 international arrivals, compared with 1,121,795 over the first seven months of 2013, an increase of 43 percent.
Tin Mya Soe said hotel zone planners should coordinate with other ministries and departments, which are involved in projects to improve roads and communications in the region. Plans are also in the works to upgrade the facilities of Natma Taung National Park, which the hotel zone is expected to rely heavily on to draw tourists.