Naypyitaw’s Kempinski Hotel becomes latest victim of Myanmar’s economic turmoil 

The luxury Kempinski Hotel in Naypyitaw closed down last week, marking the latest blow to Myanmar’s decimated tourism industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the military coup.  

The Swiss-owned 5-star establishment, which in 2014 hosted then US president Barack Obama during a visit to the country, closed its doors on October 13 after sending a letter to guests to notify them of the decision, a staff member told Myanmar Now. 

Numerous international companies have fled Myanmar since the military’s February 1 seizure of power plunged the economy into turmoil, compounding an already dire situation caused by the pandemic. 

Naung Naung Han, chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, told Myanmar Now that a lack of international visitors was driving luxury hotel operators away. 

“There has been a huge decline in the number of tourists,” he said. “They’re also worried about the stability of the country’s politics. All this accounts for them leaving the country.” 

Some hotel businesses are staying afloat by catering to local travellers and long-stay guests, but the high overheads of major international hotel chains mean they depend on foreign visitors. International tourists have been banned from the country since March last year. 

The Kempinski has 141 rooms and has hosted international government officials, ambassadors and business travellers since it opened in 2014. 

One of Myanmar’s most well-known tycoons, Aung Ko Win, is an investor in the hotel via his company the Kanbawza Group, which in partnership with the Jewellery Luck Company put up $45m for the project.  

Nyo Aye, the director of the junta-controlled tourism ministry, said in early September that 225 out of the 483 hotels in Yangon have shut down. Among them is the Sule Shangri-La, formerly known as the Traders Hotel. 

The Sedona Hotel on Kabar Aye Pagoda road remains open to long-stay guests but no longer accepts new guests or serves meals at its restaurant.

Last week British American Tobacco joined the rush of large multinationals exiting Myanmar. 

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