Myanmar Inclusive Tourism Baseline Assessment and Planning
A three-year project to boost sustainable and inclusive tourism in Myanmar, with a particular focus on the eastern state of Kayah, was launched in August 2014 both in Yangon and Loikaw (Kayah State). The project forms part of the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III programme managed by the ITC in co-operation with the CBI, the Dutch government’s agency to promote imports from developing countries. The project is funded by the Dutch Government.
Project activity implementation started soon after the launch, as an expert mission carried out a baseline assessment and value chain analysis of the tourism sector, and gathered first-hand information to draft a vision for tourism development in Kayah State.
The Government of Myanmar has driven the project’s focus on Kayah state based on the region’s unexplored tourism potential, with its natural beauty and presence of many ethnic groups. Given high poverty rates in the state, tourism development would enable sustainable job creation.
Full support for the planned activities has been re-confirmed by the Government of Myanmar. Mr. Aung Soe, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Commerce, praised ITC analysis and provided guidance for future interventions. The ITC Value Chain Analysis will tell us where opportunities are and how and where inclusive tourism development can support other economic sectors. Additionally, opportunities in linking Mae Hong Soe (Thailand) with Inle Lake (Myanmar) as a continuation of the route from Chiang Mai (Thailand) have to be assessed’, he said. ‘Priority should be given to foreigners and especially Westerners visiting from Thailand.’
Joint activities with other international organizations and NGOs such as GIZ, Tourism Transparency, ACTED, etc. are being explored. Together with ACTED, a French non-governmental group focusing on helping people affected by conflict and natural disasters, ITC is investigating opportunities for using tourism to reintegrate refugees from Kayah State living in camps in neighbouring Thailand. Samuel Monet, ACTED’s Country Director for Myanmar, said ‘Refugee camps host about 16,000 people all from Kayah state.’ ITC tourism expert Frederic Thomas said that the mission looked at how the NTF III project could help create jobs for hospitality and craft trainees already producing high-quality products. ACTED proposed to use the information centres inside the camps as platforms to raise awareness about job opportunities related to tourism in Kayah, and to collect information on existing capacities and interests.
In order to forecast potential market linkages for new or consolidated products and activities in Kayah State, two sectoral discussion groups were held with ITC private sector partners in Yangon, the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) and Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM). UMTA’s members highlighted ‘the need for training in hospitality and quality of services at each node of the supply chain and the need for hotels, restaurants and guides to reach international standards in Kayah state’. Additionally, one tour operator pointed to sensitivities around the promotion of Kayan (long-neck) women: as some consider the practice of using brass rings to elongate the women’s necks to be exploitative, it would be necessary to adopt a participative approach to ensure that the women were free to make their own choices. Willing to highlight the project and its innovative approach, MTM’s Chairman – Mr U Phyoe Wai Yar Zar – invited the ITC tourism experts to present the project at a larger platform to tourism professionals, e.g. during an upcoming ‘industry interact event’.
In Kayah state, interviews have been conducted with all the major tourism and tourism-related stakeholders as well as political leaders and former armed rebels to establish the project’s baseline against which (1) to measure impact and (2) to gather information to plan Kayah’s tourism development.
Hu Myint Han, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, welcomed the Myanmar NTFIII tourism project for reinforcing the capacities of local authorities to accompany tourism development.
For Frederic Thomas, ‘the mission highlighted the existence of unique and fragile tourism assets within a very complex environment. Both, the acknowledgement of projects by all influential local stakeholders and a fair distribution of activities within the State appear the best way for the project to succeed. Participative strategies could help to rebuild the social fabric and bring the overall support of all actors in this post-civil war country’.