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Since coming to Myanmar (then known as Burma) for the first time in 1977 I was fascinated. Friendly people, some of the most import-ant archaeological sites in South East Asia and a beautiful country-side make it hard to believe that until very lately the country has been something of an 'insiders' tip'. From the very beginning I had the feeling that Myanmar has great touristic potential that only waits to be discovered. In 1986 I guided my first tour through the country, followed by more than hundred others - private ones as well as for renowned German travel agencies.

In the course of my 'tour leader career' I've worked in India, China and all South East Asian countries but Myanmar always held a special place in my heart. In 1996 I moved from Berlin to Yangon and since then I have lived in Myanmar. During my trips around the country I had ample time to study the tourist trade over here and finally came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to make use of the knowledge collected over a long time - thus, my first company, Bo-Tree Travel, came into existence. Since then I had the privilege to make the beauty of my host country accessible to thou-sands of clients. I was happy to learn that nearly all of them were fascinated as well as I was decades ago and many of them have been coming back to Myanmar. In 2008 I left Bo-Tree and founded AZURE SKY TOURS together with a new local partner.

Myanmar's culture has fascinated me since my first encounter and it didn't take very long until I developed a keen interest which resulted in am number of books: 1990 I wrote the first one ('Birmanisches Marionettentheater' , published by the author), followed by 'Nelles Guide Myanmar' (together with my friend Helmut Koellner) in 1996 which has been translated into several languages.  Until this very day it is one of the most successful guide books about Myanmar in German and has been revised several times, now in its 10th edition, if I'm not mistaken.

1991 I started to study Burmese at Humboldt University Berlin as its knowledge was indispensable for my next project: a Ph.D. thesis about Burmese puppetry which I finished in 1999 ('Burmesische Marionettenkunst', Hamburg). 'Burmese Puppetry', published in 2006 by White Lotus, Bangkok, was my first book in English. It has since become a standard work. Not too long ago I finished 'How to be a good tour guide in Myanmar' which - I hope - will pass on my experience of more than twenty years to my young colleagues.

We don't see our agency as one among many others - no, our clients have the right to expect special achievements from us! Two examples: in 2004 I accompanied a team from the German STERN magazine that was working on a book about the world religions. Myanmar served as model for Buddhism. During our ten days journey I arranged meetings with Buddhist monks, believers and  scholars. It was one of the best selling editions in the history of the magazine and was subsequently published as a book ('Die sechs Weltreligionen', The six world religions, STERN-Buch, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 2005).

In December 2006 I accompanied the German director Roman Teufel and his team (rtv-studio) during the shooting of a film ('Myanmar - Journey into a lost era') and I was glad to have the chance to contribute to one of the best movies ever made about Myanmar. It received several awards and has been screened repeatedly in many European countries. (Pls. see the trailer!) In 2014 Roman Teufel made another movie (‘Reise in mein Land’/‘A journey to my country’, in German language) about Rakhine, starring my local business partner, Mrs. Khine Khine.

Since 1990 Myanmar has taken several steps to make itself more attractive for visitors. Visa regulations were simplified and the one-week visa that had been enforced since the 1970s was replaced with a four-week visa (see under visa regulations!). The most important step, however, was the abolition of the governments' monopoly of the tourist trade. Many private companies have been founded since then as a result and got a chance to participate in the tourism trade.  And they seized that chance! Gone are the days when tourists were bunked in rundown hotels accompanied by cockroaches and rats, transported in rickety decade-old coaches and airplanes, plagued by the notorious 'Burma Belly'. Nowadays, the visitors can choose among numerous good restaurants and the country's attractions are connected by modern means of transport. At those destinations the visitors can choose from a wide range of hotels, from budget accommodation to four-star-comfort.

Thanks to the reforms and the abolition of sanctions by major Western powers since the elections of 2010 the travel industry has made good progress in our country. In 2012 the number of tourists exceeded one million visitors for the first time in history. This is a big step forward for Myanmar even though this figure includes a significant number of day tourists in local border traffic. However, looking at the total number of tourists in South East Asia (about hundred million!) Myanmar attracted merely one percent of those visitors who came to SE-Asia in 2012... Malaysia is the leading tourist destination with about 29% of the visitors coming to that country. Thailand comes in a close second with 25%. Lately I hear from clients that it is probably ‘too late’ to visit Myanmar, the best days for a visit being over.  Looking at above mentioned figures, nothing could be more wrong: there are quite a few destinations in Myanmar where the foreign tourist still has the place all to himself... One thing, however, is true: Myanmar has the strongest growth in tourist arrivals in the entire region - from 2011 to 2012 the number of visitors increased by 30%! But isn’t that only normal after the country has been more or less closed for decades? Accordingly, the forecast for Myanmar’s tourism industry is excellent: some expect that up to 7.5 million visitors will visit Myanmar in 2020! The most encouraging fact of these estimates is the number of jobs created in the tourist industry: in 2012 about 300,000 people were employed by hotels, travel agencies, car agencies etc. In 2020 the number is expected to double, according to conservative estimates. More optimistic ones expect up to 1.5 million people working in our industry. Whatever the actual numbers will be in the future: the jobs are most welcome in a country where unemployment is rather high. Please support the charming Burmese people by coming to their country - our country. ‘But isn’t all the money going into the pocket of the government or its cronies?’ I hear from worried would-be tourists. Don’t worry! Most of the former government-owned hotels have been sold to private owners - of course, the new owners aren’t poor people - the latter usually don’t own hotels or airlines, which are in private hands, too (except for Myanmar Airways, which we don’t use).

Please be our guest in Myanmar and we show you the most beautiful country on God’s earth.

Please also see our new service 'River Cruises'!

Dr. Axel Bruns & his Team

A word...
from Dr. Axel Bruns

Dear friends, ladies & gentlemen,
We are happy to represent our new colleague: Mr. Tobias Esche is the new Deputy General Manager of our company. He is a German citizen, speaks Burmese and has written a guide book about Myanmar (in German, see below). He has some work experience in our trade as he has worked for a big travel agency here in Myanmar. Moreover, he has knowledge of the internet (which unfortunately evades me...) and thus will enable us to improve in this sector. Pls. expect some (long overdue) changes in the near future. Furthermore, Mrs. Kyawt Kyawt has been replaced in the reservation department by Mrs. Thaw Thaw (see picture below).

F. l. t. r.: Axel Bruns (GM), Daw Ei Ei (Director), Ma Thaw Thaw (Reservation)
Ma Aye Shi (Assistant), Tobias Esche (Dep. GM)

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© 2008 Axel Bruns