This week, the spotlight is on:
Burma’s Tourism Industry: How to enhance and strengthen its potential after last year’s government reforms?
Here is an article on how to bridge the gap in Burma’s tourism potential. As we mentioned in a previous note, “[Burma] is undergoing a period of dramatic change, and skyrocketing tourist arrivals are already putting existing tourism infrastructure under enormous strain.” We need to find immediate solutions to the most pressing problems. It seems necessary then to address the issues surrounding tourist accommodation and the rapid rise in the number of international flights leading to heavily congested airports.
The article also tackles the need to improve the U Bein Bridge’s infrastructure, discussing ways to preserve it and exploring options to make it more attractive. Over and above all, finding ways so that “increasingly the paying visitors will want more than exotic wonders.”
Furthermore, in the context of the demand for responsible tourism, future growth and prosperity will depend to a large extent on how successfully Myanmar meets tourism demand. It is undoubtedly one of the key challenges the government and the tourism industry must face given that “The number of tourist arrivals in Bagan has increased by 57 per cent from 120,000 last year.” It is definitely “the season to be happy but local hoteliers and tourist guides are finding it hard to manage foreign tourists flocking in droves to Myanmar’s ancient city of Bagan”.
The following article, “When tourists swindle locals” provides a legitimate and critical assessment of tourists’ behavior and inclinations. It highlights inappropriate behavior shown by tourists and experienced by locals. This example is based on a true story, “But I did wonder: Why travel halfway around the world (she had told us she was from Belgium), and then allow a mere K4000 to prevent you from actually experiencing or seeing anything? And more important, why come to a developing country and then demand services from locals at insultingly low prices?.”
The author denounces the uncaring arrogance of certain tourists, who try to glean the most of what they can wherever they are. If tourists really want to enjoy their journey in a way consistent with responsible tourism and its objectives, they should definitely show some respect for locals and not take them for fools.
Conversely, the author reminds us that there are always some unscrupulous people who will attempt to take advantage of foreign visitors in Myanmar, “as illustrated by the grotesquely inflated room rates charged by ravenous hoteliers last tourist season.”
Finally, some eagerly-awaited news on Burma’s changing tourism landscape, “Burmese banks sign deal with Visa.” Officials in Burma have announced that three private banks have signed agreements with Visa Inc to enable international travelers to use credits cards and withdraw cash from ATM machines by January. This last news is seen as “a milestone that will boost tourism industry in particular.”
This week we are introducing some travel tips related to travel vaccinations, especially when going to a developing country. Although it focuses on UK vaccinations, it may still be interesting for travelers from other countries. The author, Nick Trends, weighs the pros and cons of going to a private clinic vs. a public one. He notes that going to a public clinic may be significantly cheaper, another advantage being “the surgery will have your health records, should have details of your previous vaccinations and will be able to give you personal advice based on your medical history”.
However, he warns that there are no fixed prices for immunisations and as such, it is necessary to “check the prices your doctor quotes against the costs at a private clinic.”
On the other hand, specialist clinics have the advantage of having up-to-date information specifically for unique and exotic destinations. The availability of large quantities of vaccines in stock is another plus, as there would generally be no need to place an order in advance.
The author continues with “a six-point plan for getting the right jabs, at the right time and the right price”: plan well ahead, get the right advice, give all the details, travel with a medical kit…etc.
We encourage you to read it carefully and take notes for your next trip.
Join & Discover
We are thrilled to present you with a new booklet entitled “Dos and Don’ts for Tourists. How can you visit Myanmar responsibly?” It is jointly published by Hans Seidel Foundation, Myanmar Tourism Foundation and Tourism Transparency in cooperation with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. This booklet is full of useful advice for tourists on how to behave towards locals and to respect their cultures and traditions, as well as how to avoid getting intro trouble with people and authorities. One of the cartoonists is Harn Lay who is known from his work for The Irrawaddy. He has also previously cooperated with Burma Center Prague for an exhibition of political cartoons in 2007. Harn Lay is known to be one of the harshest critics of the government. Please note that the booklet can also be downloaded as PDF.
We conclude with a note on our own behalf:
We proudly announce the launch of a new page at www.myanmar-tourism.org which aims to raise awareness among Burmese speakers about the various issues that can be brought on by mass tourism in Myanmar. We hereby respond to an apparent need we identified during previous capacity building activities. If you are in contact with people and NGOs in and from Myanmar, please inform them about this website.