This week’s focus is on:
Tourism and Travel: Understanding the Consequences of our Actions and Advice on Responsible Tourism
“Responsible tourism is about taking responsibility for achieving sustainable development through tourism […], it is about identifying economic, social and environmental issues which matter locally and tackling them” (Professor Harold Goodwin)
We are thrilled to present the 2012 report on “Responsible Tourism in Myanmar: Current Situation and Challenges” published by Burma Center Prague and available here in pdf format. The author, Ko Ko, who is of Burmese origin, works at the Department of Development Studies in Vienna.
One of the main objectives of the report is to caution against and question exaggerated optimism as there is still evidence of overwhelming cronyism in larger Burmese tourism enterprises and high-end tourist facilities. As said in the Executive Summary, “Given Myanmar’s structural corruption, crony capitalism, widespread poverty, ongoing human rights issues, communal violence and civil war, it is doubtful if responsible tourism will deliver its noble promises, sustainable development and social justice, even if it is set to become a driver of economic growth in the coming decades”. One of the key recommendations, therefore, is to focus efforts on empowering civil society and strengthening small and medium-sized businesses in order to prevent responsible tourism from becoming merely a marketing ploy, “a cash cow to attract investment and tourists in the country”.
Rather, responsible tourism in Myanmar needs much more actual involvement on the grassroots-level, so as to benefit local communities, with a genuine adherence to human rights. In this regard, the report presents a critical review of the current Myanmar Responsible Tourism Policy and tackles some serious gaps from a human rights perspective, including the rights of the local and most vulnerable communities – rights over ancestral lands and natural resources, right to housing, right to health…etc.—which are “persistently subject to abuse”. We strongly encourage you to read this report.
The next article tackles the issue of carbon offsetting as an effective tool for sustainable tourism. Carbon offsets is defined by the Carbon Neutral Company as “credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions made at another location.” The article explains that “tourism businesses can “offset” travelers’ carbon emissions by calculating their travel-related emissions and by making the appropriate financial contributions to projects that address climate impact mitigation.” Specific examples of projects include tree planting and subsidizing renewable energy.
However, critics of carbon offsetting point out that this can be used by businesses and consumers as an “excuse” for generating more carbon emissions; adhering to this principle but exploiting and misusing it “as a way of making [tourism] businesses look more attractive.” As a precautionary measure, the principle of transparency must then be applied for the development and implementation of responsible tourism policies.
It is necessary that other climate friendly strategies be adhered to in accordance with the promotion of sustainable tourism. The article sums it up by citing strong examples of how several tourism stakeholders have incorporated carbon offsetting schemes into their own sustainability practices.
From the last Burma Business Round-up, “Thai Tourism planners want to develop Thailand to become a base for tourists to visit neighbouring countries such as Burma”. The strategy is to develop new routes between these two countries, via “Thailand’s far north province of Chian Rai and through a new road being built from the Thai border town of Kanchanaburi to Dawei on Burma’s southeast coast. Another interesting project could be the creation of a port and an industrial zone in Dawei. However, the plan was abandoned this year due to lack of financing.
This week’s travel story is about a tourist who went to Burma on a whim. He explains that even if it was a spontaneous decision, it was pretty easy to get there. As for the visa, you can get it in one day if you pay “an extra amount of money and show them proof that you are leaving sooner”— instead of the 21 days normally required. His adventure began with the discovery of the vibrant city of Yangon, where he was impressed and pleasantly surprised by the strong Indian culture and influence. He encountered the extraordinary kindness of Burmese people, describing them as “amazingly friendly to tourists and foreigners. And their English is shockingly good compared to the other Asian countries”. A visit to the Shwedagon Paya is highly recommended. He was most alarmed with how a majority of the food places are out on the street. He describes this further in the article. I invite you to read on for pictures and personal anecdotes of his journey.
Last but not least, “Burma…Am I jumping on a bandwagon?” concerning the morality of the decision to travel to Burma.
Have a good week.