Since coming to Myanmar (then known as Burma) for the first time in 1977
I was fascinated. Friendly people, some of the most import-ant
archaeological sites in South East Asia and a beautiful country-side
make it hard to believe that until very lately the country has been
something of an 'insiders' tip'. From the very beginning I had the
feeling that Myanmar has great touristic potential that only waits to be
discovered. In 1986 I guided my first tour through the country, followed
by more than hundred others - private ones as well as for renowned
German travel agencies.
In the course of my 'tour leader career' I've
worked in India, China and all South East Asian countries but Myanmar
always held a special place in my heart. In 1996 I moved from Berlin to
Yangon and since then I have lived in Myanmar. During my trips around
the country I had ample time to study the tourist trade over here and
finally came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to make use
of the knowledge collected over a long time - thus, my first company,
Bo-Tree Travel, came into existence. Since then I had the privilege to
make the beauty of my host country accessible to thou-sands of clients.
I was happy to learn that nearly all of them were fascinated as well as
I was decades ago and many of them have been coming back to Myanmar. In
2008 I left Bo-Tree and founded AZURE SKY TOURS together with a new
Myanmar's culture has fascinated me since my first
encounter and it didn't take very long until I developed a keen interest
which resulted in am number of books: 1990 I wrote the first one ('Birmanisches
Marionettentheater' , published by the author), followed by 'Nelles
Guide Myanmar' (together with my friend Helmut Koellner) in 1996 which
has been translated into several languages. Until this very day it is
one of the most successful guide books about Myanmar in German and has
been revised several times, now in its 10th edition, if I'm not
1991 I started to study Burmese at Humboldt
University Berlin as its knowledge was indispensable for my next
project: a Ph.D. thesis about Burmese puppetry which I finished in 1999
('Burmesische Marionettenkunst', Hamburg). 'Burmese Puppetry', published
in 2006 by White Lotus, Bangkok, was my first book in English. It has
since become a standard work. Not too long ago I finished 'How to be a
good tour guide in Myanmar' which - I hope - will pass on my experience
of more than twenty years to my young colleagues.
We don't see our agency as one among many others -
no, our clients have the right to expect special achievements from us!
Two examples: in 2004 I accompanied a team from the German STERN
magazine that was working on a book about the world religions. Myanmar
served as model for Buddhism. During our ten days journey I arranged
meetings with Buddhist monks, believers and scholars. It was one of the
best selling editions in the history of the magazine and was
subsequently published as a book ('Die sechs Weltreligionen', The six
world religions, STERN-Buch, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 2005).
In December 2006 I accompanied the German director
Roman Teufel and his team (rtv-studio) during the shooting of a film
('Myanmar - Journey into a lost era') and I was glad to have the chance
to contribute to one of the best movies ever made about Myanmar. It
received several awards and has been screened repeatedly in many
European countries. (Pls. see the trailer!)
In 2014 Roman Teufel made another movie (‘Reise in mein Land’/‘A journey
to my country’, in German language) about Rakhine, starring my local
business partner, Mrs. Khine Khine.
Since 1990 Myanmar has taken several steps to make
itself more attractive for visitors. Visa regulations were simplified
and the one-week visa that had been enforced since the 1970s was
replaced with a four-week visa (see under visa regulations!). The most
important step, however, was the abolition of the governments' monopoly
of the tourist trade. Many private companies have been founded since
then as a result and got a chance to participate in the tourism trade.
And they seized that chance! Gone are the days when tourists were bunked
in rundown hotels accompanied by cockroaches and rats, transported in
rickety decade-old coaches and airplanes, plagued by the notorious
'Burma Belly'. Nowadays, the visitors can choose among numerous good
restaurants and the country's attractions are connected by modern means
of transport. At those destinations the visitors can choose from a wide
range of hotels, from budget accommodation to four-star-comfort.
Thanks to the reforms and the abolition of sanctions by major Western
powers since the elections of 2010 the travel industry has made good
progress in our country. In 2012 the number of tourists exceeded one
million visitors for the first time in history. This is a big step
forward for Myanmar even though this figure includes a significant
number of day tourists in local border traffic. However, looking at the
total number of tourists in South East Asia (about hundred million!)
Myanmar attracted merely one percent of those visitors who came to
SE-Asia in 2012... Malaysia is the leading tourist destination with
about 29% of the visitors coming to that country. Thailand comes in a
close second with 25%. Lately I hear from clients that it is probably
‘too late’ to visit Myanmar, the best days for a visit being over.
Looking at above mentioned figures, nothing could be more wrong: there
are quite a few destinations in Myanmar where the foreign tourist still
has the place all to himself... One thing, however, is true: Myanmar has
the strongest growth in tourist arrivals in the entire region - from
2011 to 2012 the number of visitors increased by 30%! But isn’t that
only normal after the country has been more or less closed for decades?
Accordingly, the forecast for Myanmar’s tourism industry is excellent:
some expect that up to 7.5 million visitors will visit Myanmar in 2020!
The most encouraging fact of these estimates is the number of jobs
created in the tourist industry: in 2012 about 300,000 people were
employed by hotels, travel agencies, car agencies etc. In 2020 the
number is expected to double, according to conservative estimates. More
optimistic ones expect up to 1.5 million people working in our industry.
Whatever the actual numbers will be in the future: the jobs are most
welcome in a country where unemployment is rather high. Please support
the charming Burmese people by coming to their country - our country.
‘But isn’t all the money going into the pocket of the government or its
cronies?’ I hear from worried would-be tourists. Don’t worry! Most of
the former government-owned hotels have been sold to private owners - of
course, the new owners aren’t poor people - the latter usually don’t own
hotels or airlines, which are in private hands, too (except for Myanmar
Airways, which we don’t use).
Please be our guest in Myanmar and we show you the most beautiful
country on God’s earth.
Please also see our new service 'River Cruises'!
Dr. Axel Bruns & his Team