In the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar last week, signaling further improved relations between the two countries, tour operators have seen increased interest in travel to the Asian nation formerly known as Burma.
“Since the elections in November 2010, the government has started to open its doors, and Secretary Clinton’s trip is the first step in ending the country’s international isolation,” said Pamela Lassers an Abercrombie & Kent spokeswoman.
She noted that A&K has responded to the growing interest in travel to Myanmar by creating three programs for 2012.
“We definitely expect Mrs. Clinton's arrival in Burma to further increase the popularity of our brand-new Visions of Burma trip,” said Mickey Huang, marketing manager for General Tours World Traveler.
Huang said that General Tours added the Myanmar itinerary to its 2012-13 brochure with “guarded optimism,” as the country made “tentative but clear steps toward democracy,” including the release of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest last year.
General Tours’ Visions of Burma itinerary is already one of the most-viewed tours on the company’s website, and of the 20 tours that are new for 2012, it is among the bestsellers, according to Huang.
Patricia Weismantel, product manager for Asia specialist SpiceRoads, said that bookings to Myanmar are “going extremely well, despite us having a huge increase in costs for 2012 due to fuel prices there.”
She said the company has seen a renewed interest in the destination since Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, and that the surge of interest has made it difficult for supply to keep pace.
“There are many more travelers to Burma, and the infrastructure and number of hotel rooms isn't there yet to support them all,” noted Weismantel.
Perhaps another indicator of Myanmar gaining traction as a travel destination was its hosting of an international symposium on sustainable tourism last week.
What is the country’s allure as a tourism destination? According to Lassers, Myanmar is known for being a spiritual and untouched destination, with landscapes dotted by temples and pagodas.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.