Winter is coming and with it, the latest news about tourism in Myanmar, still tied closely to the concerns for a responsible and sustainable tourism development.
What is of great importance now is to properly assess the impact of the mass influx of tourists in Myanmar. Norway and Asian Development Bank will assist Myanmar’s government in the development of a sustainable tourism master plan:
“Myanmar is undergoing a period of dramatic change, and skyrocketing tourist arrivals are already putting existing tourism infrastructure under enormous strain”.(ADB head, Extended Mission in Myanmar, Putu Kamayana).
This assistance, through a US$225,000 grant, will range from examining the “[…] infrastructure and human resources needs, existing laws and policies, and the role of private sector organisations” to providing technical help to Myanmar’s tourism stakeholders and local people in order to ensure that the industry’s expansion is sustainable with an equitable distribution of its benefits.
Support will focus on addressing the specific obstacles to sustainable tourism development: the lack of skilled workers, the lack of education for communities, the overwhelming number of tour operators and hotels which do not function properly, the fear of pollution and threats to wildlife…etc.
Another very important aspect in developing responsible tourism is by telling stories: “People have stopped asking what and why and have started asking how.” According to Justin Francis, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of www.responsibletravel.com, “we need to follow in the footsteps of the food and fashion sectors which embraced the idea of the ‘local’ and telling the story behind the products they are selling.” This message supports the approach of the EcoBurma project very well which believes in the “power of stories” for a better Burma. Telling stories can promote “a form of travel that is aware of hidden details.” And in order to present comprehensive perspectives from both sides, it should include stories not just from tourists and visiting travellers, but also from locals who “are independent, assertive, and safe enough to speak out.”
Here’s more concrete news for you travellers: “Rakhine State off-limits to small travellers groups”. Popular tourist attractions in Thandwe and Ngapali has reopened for the peak season, however, only large groups travelling in “package tours” are allowed to visit certain places. Single and small travelling groups (also known as Free Independent Travellers) will see their access to certain places in the northern Rakhine State (where violence occurs) restricted for security and safety reasons.
Before introducing a very enlightening travel story, here is interesting, up-to-date news: “Burma officially approves use of int’l credit cards.” Officials, however, did not make public when the use of the cards would begin. The full introduction of ATM machines valid for international credit cards may happen within six months. Currently, only some Burmese customers can use a Myanmar Payment Union (MPU) debit card “to withdraw money at ATM machines of participating banks and to buy goods at some stores.” In order to be as efficient as possible, “Visa has begun training workshops” for local Burmese bank employers in order to familiarize them to this new electronic payment system under the best possible conditions.
This week, we introduce to you an enriching and worthwhile travel story about a week and half stay in Burma. The story highlights how fascinating it is to be “here to witness a country rapidly coming out of its shell […] and there is a palpable sense of excitement amongst the people at the prospect of impeding change and progress. There’s an undeniable vibe all over the country […].”
This personal narrative outlines in great detail how remarkable it is to visit Myanmar, a place “largely untouched, like stepping back in time.”
It also tells us the challenges of such situation when you visit Myanmar: “almost nothing here works properly and the whole country’s infrastructure is in shambles. […] Many streets are only partially paved and turn to muddy swamps when it rains…” Another challenge faced by the narrator is how the cash-only economy affected the length of their stay given their limited cash on hand.
Read on for other pleasant surprises they discovered while visiting Burma, such as how Burmese people relate to money, the old-fashioned network of public pay phones vis-a-vis the emergence of cell phones, and the friendliness of Burmese people describing them as “simply the sweetest people on Earth.”
Finally, a display that may interest you if you plan on visiting Burma: “If you are going to Yangon, I would strongly recommend that you use the Golden Harp Taxi Service, a collective made up of former political prisoners, which aims to:
Create employment opportunities for former political prisoners.
Help former political prisoners become financially self-sustainable.
Reintegrate former political prisoners into society.
Provide foreign visitors and friends to Burma with services such as reliable translation, safe transport, and an accurate source of information for the political situation on the ground.”
Let us know if you want the contact information of this taxi service.
Have a good week everyone.