Myanmar's Minister for Hotels and Tourism banned its citizens from taking in foreign boarders this week in an effort to ease a shortage of lodgings in the boomtown Yangon, saying the their behavior was unacceptable.
According to a report from Quartz, there are only 8,000 hotel rooms in Yangon currently, and only 1,500 to 2,500 are up to international standards. Over 1.06 million tourists visited the country last year, and that number is poised to increase this year as the world becomes aware of the formerly economically and culturally closed off country in Southeast Asia.
The reform government has big plans for its tourism sector, including a $500 million investment which incorporates 38 development projects, and is hoped to bump he country’s tourism receipts up to $10.1 billion. In addition, several hotel zones across the country are being constructed, adding 1,000 new rooms in Yangon this year.
The shortage might have provided the perfect opportunity for a hoc house-sharing initiatives like AirBnB, especially as many Myanmar natives live in poverty, who could be matched up with tourists in need of lodging, Quartz reported, but Aung told tour guides this week that homestay will not be allowed, as foreigners’ manners are “not appropriate” for local residents.
Inappropriate manners meant not following Myanmar customs, said Aung, such as not sleeping facing the east, or not liking the Myanmar style of eating - a family using one spoon to eat from a single bowl of soup.
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Aung’s comments came at a meeting of the tourism players of Mandalay, a popular Myanmar tourist destination, including hoteliers and tour guides, according to the Myanmar Times. “Homestays” are only suitable when foreigners visit remote areas, Aung added, but where hotels are available, particularly in larger urban centers such as Yangon or Mandalay, such arrangements should not be permitted.
Homestays are common when tourists go on hikes for multiple days, with accommodation arranged by a guide. In some cases they sleep in monasteries. They help to alleviate the country’s hotel shortage, said Ko Thaung Naing Oo, from the Myanmar Tourist Guide Association’s Mandalay branch, but open communication is essential for the homestay to proceed smoothly.
The government may also be concerned with its ability to keep tabs on foreign visitors. By law, people staying at hotels must register with local authorities, according to Quartz.