Hotel chains eyeing Burma as new market

Starwood Hotels & Resorts – which runs hotel chains such as Westin, Sheraton and W – and Marriott International, said during the World Economic Forum in Davos they wanted to expand into Burma.

“Marriott would love to be there if the conditions are right,” said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO-elect of Marriott International, according to Reuters news agency. “Burma has captured people’s imagination for decades.”

Recently, the Burmese tour industry has voiced frustrations at the limited number of hotel facilities, and its poor tourism infrastructure, including guides, transportation, airlines seats and promotional activities. 

The only chain hotels now are Asian-based companies such as Shangri-la Hotels & Resorts, which runs the Traders Hotel in Myanmar’s commercial capital of Rangoon, according to Reuters.

Burma’s tourism authority said this month that about 300,000 tourists visited last year, according to government figures, a mere trickle compared to neighbors Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. 

“I think it’s time for people like us to look at Burma,” Vasant Prabhu, vice chairman and chief financial officer of Starwood Hotels & Resorts was quoted as saying.
A key to international hotel chains entering the Burmese market will be the lifting of economic sanctions by the U.S., European Union and other countries. There has been talk that selected sanctions might be lifted as early as April, following the country’s by-election.

U.S. and European sanctions, imposed in response to years of human rights abuses, have left much of the country in poverty. One-third of its estimated 60 million people live on less than a dollar a day.