IFC invests in sustainable tourism in Myanmar

U Win Aung, CEO of Amata Hotel Group and Mr. Philippe H. Le Houerou , CEO of IFC signing the agreement. Photo: My Bagan Residence by Amata

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is lending up to $13.5 million to United International Group Limited, a leading domestic hotel owner and operator in Myanmar, to expand United International’s hospitality business, the IFC said in a statement.

Tourism is a critical component of Myanmar’s economy: it contributed $3 billion to Myanmar’s GDP in 2014 and is predicted to grow 8.4 percent annually until 2025. By then, the sector will employ around two million people. 

IFC’s convertible loan will help United International, which owns and operates the Amata resort chain, build new hotels in two of Myanmar’s biggest tourism destinations: Bagan, world-famous for its ancient pagodas, and Inle, home to the biodiversity-rich Inle Lake.

Amata’s expansion will help address the acute need for quality hospitality infrastructure outside the commercial capital Yangon, and by doing so, help stimulate tourism. International arrivals in Myanmar have jumped from 800,000 in 2011 to more than four million in 2015, but the supply of quality tourist accommodation has failed to keep pace.

“IFC is already a trusted partner in tourism and hotel-related ventures in Myanmar and around the region,” said Win Aung, Amata Hotel Group Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to learning from IFC, tapping into its vast knowledge and expertise in the field, and elevating our business to a best-practice example in Myanmar’s growing tourism industry.”

The new 144-room hotel in Bagan and 130-room hotel in Inle will be developed in two phases. Both hotels will comply with IFC’s Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies Green Building Certification System, which will reduce energy, water, and material consumption by at least 20 percent compared with similar buildings. The Inle project will also be aligned with conservation objectives of the lake.

“Tourism, as a leading driver of economic growth and job creation, can play a major role in poverty reduction in Myanmar, particularly for women and young people. But, for this to happen, the sector must be developed in a sustainable manner,” said Philippe Le Houérou, IFC Executive Vice President and CEO. “We are committed to projects that adopt international best practices and promote sustainability in Myanmar's fast-growing tourism industry.” The investment in United International Group comes at the start of Le Houérou’s four-day visit to Myanmar, where he will hold discussions with senior leaders in both the government and the private sector, as well as with development partners. These meetings will focus on economic policy priorities to stimulate private-sector development for economic growth and job generation in Myanmar.

According to the statement, IFC, together with the World Bank, has supported reforms and investments in Myanmar to strengthen the private sector and create jobs to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity. IFC primarily focuses on improving infrastructure and access to finance, and on job-creating sectors such as agribusiness and tourism. Today, IFC is the largest investor in the country’s private sector, with accumulated investments of $386 million, as of September 2016.

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