We are thrilled to introduce you to the new « Weekly EcoBurma Round-up ». Every week, we will share the latest news on responsible travel to Burma. Critical thoughts, discoveries, and short news items will be at the forefront of our articles.
Travelling to Burma will be in the spotlight of our first Round-up.
If travel can be a personal challenge, make you grow and learn about the world at large, what can be the harm – and the stakes – of making a journey to Burma?
Since 2011, as Burma opens its doors more and more to travelers, government officials are planning their approach to tourism and the good news is that they already see sustainable tourism as their goal. But responsible tourism as a guideline for Burma’s future remains a big challenge in many ways. The stakes are undeniably high when it comes to mass tourism and the situation can be even more precarious for an emerging country that may not be able to cope with it. Indeed, since last year, due to the lack of well-fitted infrastructure, mass tourism led to a huge increase in prices. To solve such difficulties, it will therefore be necessary to improve the tourism-related infrastructure so that high hotel prices fall again and match the demand.
On the other hand, such tourism development must go hand in hand with the real participation and commitment of local peoples and their businesses.
So when the Vice Minister of Tourism Htay Aung calls for “All that glitters is not gold but Myanmar is” (from Shakespeare’s famous quote) as the slogan for the future tourism promotional campaign, he will need to prove that it is not only all hot air but a real change in practice. To express the will to fight for environmental sustainability, better income distribution, cultural preservation and more diversification of tourist numbers nationwide is very encouraging since it gives us a glimpse of changes for the better in coming years. However, it is crucial that locals have a true voice, particularly in decision-making in the tourism industry, in order to ensure that – in practice – they can either stand up for better working conditions or preserve their traditional lands.
Some locals worry about the effects of tourism on their cultural heritage, or about their country turning into a kind of Disneyland. Many ask government officials to draft new laws to ensure that most of the important cultural monuments are protected and to ensure responsible tourism development in Burma. But the issue remains the same: to ensure that future tourism development will benefit the people. Local people and tourists must remain very cautious on the promotion of sustainable tourism. “Burma’s fight is far from won”.
Moreover, for Aung San Suu Kyi to translate such slogan into real practice, the tourism sector must deliver more quick job creation for Burmese people. In this respect, education and improving language skills are a high priority.
Is travelling really serviceable for tribespeople? The question seems provocative and yet it is worth asking. Tricia Barnett of Tourism Concern considers it necessary that tourists be very careful and always keep in mind the potential effects of their journey on tribespeople’s life conditions. The primary question to keep in mind is “Do the tribespeople want me to visit them?” Tourism can be advantageous for tribal peoples if tourists and travelers visit a project set up by tribes themselves (or if the tribes are somehow involved in the tourist economy process).
The approach can be the same for learning if travel is truly environmentally responsible. The examples and answers provided by Expert Vagabond on “Should people stop traveling?” could be an eye opener for us all.
Coca-Cola is back!
Subsequent to a US decision to suspend investment sanctions against the country, Coca-Cola will reopen its business in Burma after 60 year of absence once the company gets the allowing licence to do so.
photos by waex99 and Stefan Munder
Weekly EcoBurma Roundup #1,