This week’s post may be slightly shorter but it raises real issues about the value of tourism and its consequences.
Our special guests this week are Myanmar’s endangered wild elephants.
Indeed, as described by the NGO Elephant Family it is necessary to look into the repercussions of tourism in Thailand, particularly of elephant camps and rides. The latter are a must do for thousands of tourists every year, but indirectly cause elephants to be killed in Burma.
Elephant Family reports that calves and young females are being systematically removed from their forest homes in Myanmar to supply such tourist camps all over Thailand. They are subjected to very brutal and pitiless practices to capture and domesticate them: they are beaten, tortured and most of them die during this process. For Elephant Family, “the ruthless exploitation of these elephants is unspeakable”.
Thailand, like many other countries in the region, lacks national elephant camp standards to judge whether one camp does or does not meet the standards for the welfare of elephants. According to Elephant Family, the best advice to give to tourists is to support efforts for change and spread the word about this issue.
Beyond such concerns is also the issue of the quality of tourism. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recalls that Myanmar should adopt “a value-based strategy, not a volume-based strategy with a view to tourism”. Xu Jing, the UNWTO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific claims that “sometimes less is more” from the perspective of protecting natural and cultural resources of Myanmar.
He stresses the importance of making sure that benefits of the new tourism boom will also improve local people’s well-being, and of not taking any hasty decisions based only on profit but to instead really think about how to cope with the imminent mass flow of tourists.
When speaking of the value of tourism, this can be an interesting and thought-provoking question to ask, particularly when we look at the possible major cultural differences or economic imbalances between the photographer and his subjects. For the author, the answer is “that responsible photography is very much like responsible travel” and he highlights eight guidelines to help travelers in their journey: “be informed”, “communicate”, “take the at home test”, “use an ice-breaker”…etc.
And last but not least, two lovely stories about the breathtaking city of Bagan, which is the most significant archeological site in Burma.
The first is a beautiful and very detailed portrait of two travelers’ journey to Bagan: how to get there, the travel budget, the best accommodation and above all, which temples to see.
The second is about Sulamani Temple in Bagan and its stunning fresco.
We wish you a good week.