Myanmar’s Kayah State receives economic lift from tourism

30 September 2015
ITC News
Representatives of government, business and international organizations meet to measure the progress of the ITC Inclusive Tourism project in Kayah State.

(Loikaw, Kayah State) Tourism is opening the way towards socioeconomic development in Myanmar.

Through the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Inclusive Tourism project in one of the poorest states in the country, Kayah State, small and medium-sized enterprises directly benefit from tourism revenues flowing into the country by connecting to tourism value chains and by developing tours for visitors.

The project – which is designed to enhance the trade competitiveness of the tourism sector – involves food and handicraft producers, service providers who work for hotels, restaurants and tour companies, as well as national service providers. The project supports tour operators in developing responsible cultural tours in Kayah State, and in promoting Kayah State to travelers.

Many activities have already taken place as part of the project, including:

• Training of local communities on cultural tours and development of products and services;

• Development of creative tourism activities with the Weaving Centre and the Loikaw State Museum;

• Training of tour operators on export promotion;

• Study tour to Inle Lake and Thailand for entrepreneurs, community leaders and representatives of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to increase their knowledge of cultural and sustainable tourism; and

• Training on country marketing and branding for key stakeholders.

On 29-30 September, the project steering committee consisting of government officials, private-sector representatives and development partners visited Kayah State to see the progress of the project. Beneficiaries from the communities of Pan Pet and Tha Ni La Leh presented the tourism services developed with ITC’s assistance.

‘Tourism is a promising sector for Myanmar,’ said Aung Soe, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Commerce and Chairman of the project steering committee. ‘Although geographically small, Kayah is one of the pearls in the crown of Myanmar. It offers a rich cultural heritage and scenic natural landscapes.’

Pascal Khoo Thwe, author of the bestseller From the Land of Green Ghosts and ITC consultant, adds: ‘By working closely with ITC and local tourism SMEs, we can upgrade and diversify the services offered to tourists. By linking Kayah State to nearby tourism hotspots such as Inle Lake and Thailand, Kayah can take a unique position in tourism in Myanmar.’

Nay Moe Aung of the tour operator 9 Generations says there are three keys to improving tourism in Kayah State: ‘We focus on the three S’s: safety, story and service. Naturally, safety comes first. By focusing on the right story, we can tell our tourists about the unique cultural heritage of Kayah State, from the Padaung longnecks to animistic totems. If we can do all this with the right level of service, we have something truly special to offer the tourists.’

Looking ahead, project participants will continue to receive training on marketing and branding. Representatives of restaurants and hotels will take part in food-quality workshops, while handicraft producers will be coached to fine-tune their products to better match the expectations of international tourists.

This inclusive tourism project, part of the ITC Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III programme funded by the Dutch government, can be replicated in other areas, with Kayah State serving as a model for other states in Myanmar with plans to develop tourism in an inclusive manner.