This week, we’ll take a look at:
The ongoing trends and controversial aspects of Responsible Tourism policies in Myanmar.
As always, we will take you to some of Burma’s most beautiful and untouched sights.
This article delves into the difficulties of reporting statistics surrounding Myanmar’s booming travel and tourism industry. Numbers are critical in figuring out “long-term trends that lead up to today’s boom” and in developing sustainable policies that could effectively address the needs of both tourists and locals. As currently being experienced, reports on tourism statistics have been largely inconsistent, varying widely depending on source.
A major criticism is that most data have been collected exclusively by the government’s tourism authorities, creating doubts on its reliability and objectivity. In addition, the article takes note of the limited amount of available accommodation and the subsequent shortage of rooms in Myanmar, which remains “a primary limiting factor for further tourist industry growth”.
Coming with the sudden spike in visitor arrivals is the increasingly urgent need to expand hotel capacity and related infrastructure. Expectedly, the resulting boom in tourism can have far-reaching implications, such that social and ecological consequences of mass tourism must be further monitored and regulated. Being aware of these considerable threats and of the necessity to develop tourism industries in a socially and environmentally responsible way is an encouraging step towards sustainable tourism.However, as this article rightly points out, “Some of the specifics of the [Responsible Tourism Policy] have come under fire from some activists, such as Ko Ko Thett of Burma Center Prague”. We invite you to view the key indicators of tourism performance and read in further detail Ko Ko Thett’s report here.
Further, we encourage to take a peek at the following interesting comment on tourism and “crony capitalists”. Aung San Suu Kyi is currently being criticized for “accepting donations from businessmen who profited from ties to the military regimes and are dubbed ‘crony capitalists’. She appears to be at risk of losing the people’s trust with her integrity as a good politician coming into question. This observation is in keeping with Ko Ko Thett’s (of Burma Center Prague) report on “Responsible Tourism in Myanmar: Current situation and challenges,” which seeks to identify the current shortcomings of such tourism policy. Although such assessment may provide an opportunity to correct the failings of this particular responsible tourism policy, the report is clearly points out: “It is doomed to fail from the start if the related Ministries continue to use responsible tourism as a cash cow to attract investment and tourists into the country.”
Nevertheless, in practice, there are encouraging advances towards greater promotion of responsible tourism. The Ministry of Culture announced that “any construction in Bagan Ancient Cultural Heritage Zone could only take place after an application for construction had been registered and then approved in accordance with rules and regulations.” The Heritage Zone is a major tourist destination and needs to be protected from the pressures of modernization, one of which is the mass construction of new edifices – especially those that disrespect environmental and cultural heritage.
Faced with the challenges brought about by the tourism boom, this issue of quality or quantity is still at stake: “The government has allocated land for foreign investors to build 100 hotels and for local investors to build 192 hotels at the new Tada-U Hotel Zone near Mandalay.”
Tourists are being now offered new package tours and sightseeing opportunities in the capital, considered one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Tourists will now be able to enjoy the inspiring atmosphere which has traditionally been the purview of businessmen. Aside from its usual tourist attractions, the city boasts of impressive highlights such as the “replica of Shwedagon Pagoda, Uppatasanti Pagoda, which includes a Buddha tooth relic from China. Fittingly, the capital’s name means “Royal Palace”.
If you want to get off the beaten track and enjoy a bit of local life, why not experience the Thaye Zay Station Bazaar. “For anyone who’s tired of popular tourist hot spots in Mandalay […]. The Thaye Zay Station Bazaar is an open-air market located one kilometer north of Mandalay’s symbolic moat. This vibrant and colorful market is very popular among locals who enjoy finding an abundance of delicious fresh vegetables or “sweet toddy palm sap.”
Don’t miss a unique feature of this bazaar: “It spans both sides of the railway track […] and vendors at the bazaar are sometimes required to pull their produce off the track to make way for an incoming train, especially during business rush hours from the early morning until noon.”
We are delighted to present you an interview with Christoph Amthor, co-founder of Burma Center Prague with Michael Soncina, one of the editors of Travel Culture Magazine. The interview aims to give “a better idea of what can really be done to address Burma’s new open status. He notes, “it is unquestionable that Burmese society has now more elbow room than a few years ago”, the ongoing situation may remain alarming in some parts of the State. Many challenges remain in light of the promotion and development of responsible tourism in Burma.
Christoph Amthor places emphasis on how tourists’ individual actions can benefit local communities: “Tourists should be aware than in most situations they have a choice, whether they buy their souvenirs in the foreign-owned hotel or at a local vendor […]; whether they consider Burma only the canvas of their holiday experience, or also the home of people”. Being aware of having the power to decide how you want to go about your journey is very important.
Essentially, the interview highlights one of the main aim’s of EcoBurma, which is to promote ethical tourism through storytelling: by exchanging experiences and sharing memories. Thus, enriching one’s learning and encouraging further reflection on how to promote the development of sustainable tourism in Burma.
We strongly encourage you to read details of this interview further. Have a good week everyone.