Thursday, October 11, 2007

Burma - Hotels Feeling The Heat

After constant pressure by activists across the globe, the pressure is really starting to tell on those that support the military junta in Burma. This from The Guardian:

Last month's pro-democracy protests in Burma and the junta's ruthless and bloody crackdown have hit tourism hard, with some hotels slashing prices by 80% to try to attract visitors, industry insiders said.

"There has been a steep drop in foreign arrivals - both businessmen and tourists - since the protests reached a climax in the last week of September," a manager at a Rangoon-based travel agency said yesterday. Most hotels had more than halved their rates, the manager said, but occupancy levels were below break-even point, a reflection of the outrage at last month's crackdown on monks and civilians in which at least 10 people were killed.

According to the Myanmar Times, a semi-official business weekly, the Savoy Hotel has axed its prices to just $20 (£9.80) a night, compared with a normal high season rate of $110.

"Business has been very bad. Most of us have been out of a job for weeks," said one English-speaking tour guide. "It is not just because of the seasonal factor. We had a lot of cancellations. "

Even before the unrest tourism was in a parlous state, partly due to activists' calls for a boycott in order to keep tourist dollars out of the generals' pockets. Burma says it had 192,000 tourists in the year to March. By contrast, neighbouring Thailand expects about 13 million visitors this year, and even war-scarred Cambodia is aiming for 2 million.

Airlines have also been hit by the crisis. Domestic flight schedules had to be altered because of curfews imposed on Rangoon and Mandalay, and even unaffected flights are half-empty. A businessman who flew in from Singapore last week on an Air Bagan Airbus capable of carrying more than 200 passengers said there were only two dozen people on board.

If there is an hope that the military regime will collapse, the current trends need to be continued. Many of these companies hide behind their claims of helping the poor in Burma. However, given the amount of money that this generates for the junta, they are equally complicit in the murderous actions of this military regime. Only with the continuation of this pressure can the people of Burma truly be freed.