Myanmar tour operators gain branding skills to entice tourists

28 July 2015
ITC News

Tourism stakeholders in Myanmar have a better understanding of the role branding plays in attracting foreign visitors thanks to a recent seminar hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Image Diplomacy (iD), with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT).

Myanmar’s first tourism branding seminar, held on 7 July in Nay Pyi Taw, highlighted the importance of branding and detailed the work carried out under the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III Myanmar project on inclusive tourism in Kayah State. The ITC project is funded by the Dutch government’s Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) unit, and seeks to enhance the trade competitiveness of Kayah State’s tourism sector.

Representatives of more than 10 key tourism entities – including the MOHT, the Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF), Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM) and the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) – participated in the seminar. U Htay Aung, Minister of Hotels and Tourism, delivered opening remarks.

Participants were introduced to various design elements aimed at bolstering ‘Brand Myanmar’ and learned how the tourism brand can be expanded to support destinations such as Kayah State. They also discussed the development of tourism in Kayah and its portrayal to an international audience, steps needed to protect the local environment and traditions while creating wealth and jobs for the community, necessary promotional material, and ways that ITC will highlight Kayah at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin in 2016.

Developing new tourism products

ITC’s primary goal is to assist in the growth of Kayah, where it has already helped develop new tourism products, said James Howe, ITC’s Senior Adviser on International Marketing and Branding. ITC’s work in crafting clear tourism branding guidelines for the nation is critical to the industry’s success, he added.

‘The creation of a solid foundation can only benefit regional branding and promotion of states such as Kayah,’ Howe said. ‘One of our remits is to provide a platform for tourism to be a catalyst in improving the lives of local communities through well-devised, sustainable projects that will boost the local economies through trade and services, while respecting local traditions.’

Extensive guidelines on branding – rules that hadn’t been possible in the past due to funding constraints – were presented during the seminar. These guidelines and associated deliverables were developed by Yangon-based iD, an international communications consultancy that launched a television tourism branding campaign for the MOHT in 2013. The campaign was aimed at helping local organizations embrace the tourism brand and ensuring standardized use of tourism branding strategy elements to reinforce recognition globally.

Speaking at the event, Sorcha Hellyer, ITC international consultant and Co-Founder of iD, underscored the importance of all stakeholders delivering a consistent message about Myanmar and the power of branding as a tool to create greater awareness of the country’s offerings.

Meeting visitors’ expectations

ITC will continue to finesse the branding elements for Kayah in preparation for next year’s ITB – the world’s largest tourism trade fair. ITC will also help local governments and communities to develop new products and services that meet the expectations of foreign visitors, while respecting local traditions and the environment.

Tour operators in Yangon, most of whom offer packages to Kayah State, also received a helping hand in early July, when ITC international consultant Theo Nagel offered personal coaching to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on how to develop export marketing plans. This programme was designed to help entrepreneurs in the tourism sector improve their knowledge and skills, as well as the quality of their services.

SMEs learned during the coaching that they can help ensure a sustainable future for themselves by developing specific markets, concepts and products. A participant from SST Tourism noted that ‘after your feedback, we have a clear product-development strategy now’. William Chew of Asia International Link Travel and Tour Company Limited voiced his appreciation for Nagel in helping his organization find its unique selling propositions, adding that he ‘will go ahead now on developing my new market’.