Friday, December 19

Myanmar Government Cancels 84 Tourism Shops

Chiang Mai, Thailand  - Eighty four tour and travel companies have been stripped off of their license by Burma’s directorate of Hotels and Tourism for failing to renew their license, officials said.

An official from the office the directorate of Hotels and Tourism told Mizzima that the license of the tour companies, which have been operating for two years, were cancelled as they failed to renew their license.

“Those that have been stripped off their license do not include popular tour companies. These companies are the ones that failed to report for more than two years, and defaulted in paying taxes,” the official at the directorate office of Hotels and tourism in Naypyitaw, Burma’s new capital, said.

The 84 tour companies are smaller operators among the over 500 tour companies operating in Burma.

“We issue a license for two years, and tour companies are required to renew them after two years. We can still accept it with a late fine for about six months. But these companies have disappeared for years. For some we don’t even know the addresses anymore,” the official added.

Sources in the tour industry said, the companies include a firm with foreign investments, and 20 companies that collaborate with foreign investors, while the rest are owned by local Burmese tour operators.

Tour companies in Burma have experienced a boom since mid-1990s, with the country receiving large numbers of foreign tourists. The lucrative business attracted private tour operators who rushed to apply for licenses and have effectively conducted tour operations.

However, the tourism industry suffered a jolt following the September 2007 monk-led protests, and smaller companies faced difficult times. Besides, more and more tourists avoided visiting Burma, when in May the ruling junta responded poorly to a natural disaster - Cyclone Nargis - that swept through Burma’s coastal divisions of Rangoon and Irrawaddy.

Following the devastation by the cyclone, the junta’s referendum on a draft constitution in May 2008, and the September 2007 mass protests, several private tour companies and smaller agencies folded up as the tourism business slid into doldrums.

An official of a Rangoon based Tour Company said, “Most of the tour companies that were stripped of their license are smaller companies that had rushed in when tourism boomed. It does not include those that are still actively doing business.”

“For those continuing in business, even if tourism is not doing as well as earlier, they are still able to survive and have not come to a point where they have to shut down operations,” the official added.