This week’s spotlight is on:
Burma: Tourism Boom, Cultural Heritage, and Responsible Travel
Let’s begin with evidence of the rapid expansion of tourism in Burma.
The first transaction using a foreign MasterCard was made last week at the headquarters of CB Bank in Rangoon. “Customers can make withdrawals in the local currency of up to 300,000 kyat (US $ 345), three times a day.” While this is a giant leap in streamlining and facilitating the daily life of visiting tourists in Burma, fees are still exceptionally steep at the moment.
Challenges of the Tourism Boom
The next article, “Burma-Asia’s chaotic rising star,” highlights the challenges Burma is still facing.
Burma is experiencing a series of rapid modernization and quickly opening up to the outside world. Improvements in infrastructure and transportation need to be made to cope with the rising flow of foreign tourists. “Sean Turnell, a Burma expert and economist […] said that ‘Burma’s infrastructures deficiencies are certainly a brake on the country’s current economic growth. More importantly, it inhibits Burma’s ability to take advantage of the opportunities that are newly available.”
Conversely, the author acknowledges the opportunities available in terms of investment, given the current state of infrastructure and the likelihood of high returns.
Further, measures must be taken to try to mitigate tourism’s adverse effects as much as possible, in particular, the sudden spike in the cost of hotel rooms.
Besides, tourism expansion cannot be fully achieved without a high quality and safe environment, but at the moment, “poor infrastructure and construction means that accidents are frequent and grievous.”
Amidst changes and rapid transformation, Burma is still very fragile and remnants of the past are still very much visible today, “students in outer suburbs must still rely on candles when reading or doing homework at night. Many businesses use private generators to ensure adequate power resources due to an antiquated power grid caused by decades of mismanagement.” Locals do complain that “the government and media turn a blind eye to problems at home.”
The Burmese government and its constituents must work together in the spirit of cooperation, and to continue on the road for a more prosperous future.
The Preservation of Burma’s Cultural Heritage
The rapid growth of tourism present another key challenge: the preservation of Burma’s heritage. “If the 34-storey Diamond Inya Palace looks like being the first skyscraper to rise over Rangoon, it is unlikely to be the last. But is Burma about to ruin Asia’s last characterful city in the race to modernize?”
Tourists are continually inspired by Burma’s natural landscape and architecture as it has “remained intact, vibrant and colourful for a century and more.” However, the risk of modernization could lead to “unique colonial-era architecture being demolished or despoiled” to be replaced by office buildings and factory space.
Foreign investors are always on the look out for development opportunities and “hundreds of old buildings may well be demolished over the coming year or two unless action is taken immediately […].Yangon may soon meet the fate of other Asian cities that realized too late the heritage they had lost.”
It is apparent then that carefully planned economic and tourist expansion can contribute to the proper management and preservation of Burma’s beautiful heritage. For instance, what could be a benchmark for the future is to “repurpose these buildings in a way that is financially viable while at the same time respectful of their architectural structure and heritage status.”
New Expectations on Responsible Travel
By highlighting Bruce Sterling’s point of view, “Sustainable practice navigate successfully through time and space,” the author essentially draws on the idea that the same should be done in the name of responsible and sustainable travel.
He reminds readers that “your lack of action is a true reflection of what you believe.” In the area of responsible and sustainable travel, people should mobilize and take a firmer stance to enhance environmental protection and the corresponding socio-economic benefits to local communities. He goes on by stating “stop making stupid excuses.” He also advocates that when people write about tourism, they “should include smarter choices about what they cover” as “for every large-group bus tour there is a small-group walking tour. For every tour operator who shows no interest in the communities put on display, there is another that can share the unique qualities of a destination in a way that incorporates community interests…etc.”
We encourage you to read and learn more about it.
“Local travel in Myanmar with the wind in your hair.”
The author paints a portrait of a beautiful Burma, a haven for slow travel.
He recommends taking the opportunity to visit Burma by train, by boat or by bus, in order to appreciate fully the beauty and rare atmosphere of Burmese landscapes: “From the deck of an unhurried boat to the roof of a speeding minivan or swaying train, this reclusive little country is definitely a slow traveller’s idea of a good time.”
He captures the spirit of Burma’s beauty as well as the advantages and the drawbacks of each type of travel, giving each individual reader an idea of the mode of transportation that would best suit him or her. For instance, if you prefer to buy yourself some time, he suggests “a slow cruise on the Ayeyarwady River by passenger ship to experience some of the river-town life of George Orwell’s novel, Burmese Days.”
We encourage you to read this article further, which is full of practical advice to help you get the most out of your journey.