Emirates has launched a daily direct flight to Yangon, bringing Myanmar, a relatively undiscovered destination in South East Asia, to within a six-hour flight from Dubai.
The route, served by a Boeing 777-300ER, is the airline’s 155th across 82 countries and territories, and represents its fifth new destination to east Asia this year. In March, Emirates started a circular service from Dubai to Cebu and Clark in the Philippines, and Yinchuan and Zhengzhou in mainland China were added in May.
The Yangon service continues on to Hanoi in Vietnam after a 90-minute stop in Myanmar’s biggest city and commercial centre. Those not disembarking in Yangon can carry on to Vietnam’s capital; the airline already operates a direct daily service to Ho Chi Minh City. Previously, most travellers to Myanmar have flown via Bangkok.
Badr Abbas, the senior vice president for Far East commercial operations at Emirates, said both Yangon and Hanoi were “on a list of must-see places, especially for UAE nationals”. Following a strong increase in tourist arrivals in Myanmar over the past year from around the world, Emirates’ strategy is both to capture and create demand, locally and globally. “We felt it was important to enter at this time. Emirates wants to play a major role in the growth and success of Myanmar,” Mr Abbas said.
Myanmar’s military government only recently opened up the country to tourism, and although some western sanctions are still in place, a boycott of tourism to the country ended in about 2010 when Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, was released from house arrest.
Mr Abbas said Dubai tourist arrivals from the Far East were increasing, even with the current strength of the dollar, and that Myanmar is a “dynamic emerging market”. The country has a population of 55 million, with 7 million living in the former capital Yangon. In terms of tourism, Myanmar’s appeal includes ancient temple sites, modern and traditional restaurants, ecotourism and a long stretch of unspoilt, remote islands and beaches on the Andaman Sea south of Yangon.
In the north, new areas previously restricted to tourism are opening up. While there is currently no Myanmar embassy in the UAE, most visitors, whether travelling on business or holiday, can apply online for an e-visa.
Flights to Yangon and Hanoi depart daily from Dubai at 03.30, arriving at Yangon International Airport at 11.40 and Hanoi’s Noi Ba International Airport at 15.30.