Sule Shangri-La Hotel to close until November as Covid-19 crisis devastates tourism industry 

The iconic Sule Shangri-La hotel in downtown Yangon will close from February 1 for at least nine months because of the devastating impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on Myanmar’s tourism sector. 

Bookings at the luxury, 466-room hotel have plummeted since March last year, when the government announced a ban on commercial international flights that has remained in place to this day. 

The hotel said in a statement on Wednesday that it had sacked staff last month in a bid to stem losses but had eventually decided on closing temporarily and reopening “when hopefully business conditions would have improved.” 

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we have implemented multiple cost management initiatives to mitigate the unprecedented financial impact, including the difficult decision to streamline our workforce last December,” it added.  

A small team will continue working to maintain the site during the closure but all other staff will be placed on extended leave with partial pay and healthcare benefits, the statement said.  

But the hotel refused to say what proportion of the salaries it would pay to furloughed staff. “We cannot tell you because of staff confidentiality,” Kay Thari, the hotel’s communications service manager, told Myanmar Now. 

Guests who have already booked stays from February will be informed individually about the closure, the hotel said. The adjoining Sule Square Mall & Office and Shangri-La Residences will remain open.

“The situation for other hotels is also very bad,” said Naung Naung Han, chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Association. “They’re losing more and more; they don’t want to shut down their business so they continue to make losses.”

Myanmar will be much slower to reopen to international tourism than to domestic tourism, he added, meaning that international hotels like Sule Shangri-La face a longer wait before they can start bringing in revenue again. 

Opened in 1996, the Sule Shangri-La was originally named the Traders Hotel but rebranded in 2014.

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