Off the beaten track in Myanmar
strengthen a nascent tourism sector
One of the biggest sustainability challenges faced by a development project is how to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to stakeholders in the field so that initiatives can be continued and replicated post-project. Another challenge, particularly in post-conflict situations, is how to nurture trust.
An integrated approach to these two challenges has been piloted by the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) ‘NTF III Inclusive Tourism Focusing on Kayah State’ project in Myanmar through a Training of Trainers (ToT) process in cultural tourism product development. In Kayah state, ITC has been working alongside government officers, local tourism businesses and communities for over two years to develop creative and community-based tours.
As a result of this work, visitors to Kayah have new opportunities to experience its delete mosaic of authentic cultural expressions and pristine natural environment.HANDS-ON TOURISM
For example, in the state capital Loikaw visitors can try their hands at making traditional Kayah sausage. They can also explore local villages accompanied by trained community guides. In Hta Nee La Leh village, options for a community-based tour include visiting ancient animist sites, meeting musicians who still play traditional bamboo instruments, enjoying an oxcart ride to a lotus pond and tasting a Kayah barbecue in a local home or on the banks of the Seven Lakes. In Pan Pet village, visitors can enjoy an interpretive trek in forested hills, encounter the fabled long-neck women, and meet local artisans in their homes to learn textiles and bamboo weaving techniques.
To ensure that tourists enjoy the local food and cherish their visit, services providers were trained and coached to improve hygiene conditions and handling food safety. More than 300 food market vendors and two bottled water companies were trained to sustainability and hygiene measures. As part of the effort, a group of 10 young professionals were formed to further coach (against a small service fee) tour operators following the completion of the project.
Underpinning these activities is a robust, participatory process that includes community consultations; awareness raising; identifying special elements of local life which villagers feel proud and comfortable to share with guests. Trainings in hospitality, food hygiene, tour guiding skills, accounting and taking bookings are also available.FIELD TRAINING
Learning from two decades of previous experiences in the region, ITC’s team engaged proactively with an emerging sector of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) ground-handlers in Loikaw, inviting managers and staff to visit the communities and participate in field training in partnership with the local government. This on-thejob training educated the ground-handlers and government representatives on how creative and community-based tours work while crafting trusting relationships among themselves, community members and the government, leading to better business and interpersonal relationships.
Community members have already welcomed over 1,500 visitors on new tours since the start of the project, with an increase of international tourists arrivals in Kayah of about 140%. According to Kayah state tourism operators, spending in the state had almost doubled since September 2014. New SME ground-handlers in Loikaw are now partners with over 30 professional, nationallevel tour operators.
Following the success of cultural tourism
development in Hta Nee Le Leh and
Pan Pet villages, ITC started working with
two other villages in Kayah state, Htay Kho
and Daw Ta Ma Gyi.
The process of identifying and training two new villages was viewed as a great opportunity to build hands-on tourism products or community based tourism (CBT) development skills among tourism professionals in Kayah. ITC invited local government, tour operators, tour guides and civil society organizations (CSOs) to join this ToT course.
The course led the trainees through each step of the process of developing and marketing CBT. Steps included identifying an appropriate destination using key success factor criteria; raising community members’ awareness about tourism; conducting a community study to learn about potentials and challenges in the new communities; organizing a study tour for new community members; and helping to conduct training on cultural tourism development and management.RECONCILIATION
A key aspect of the training is that trainees represent all ethnic groups, including those that were previously pitted against one another in armed conflict. Trainees from the Kayah, Kayan and Kayaw ethnic groups have worked in teams alongside Burmese local government officials and become colleagues and friends. Staff of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism worked alongside CSO staff, tour guides and ground-handlers to collect and analyze information, interview and train community members and present their work. Step by step, the project has had a powerful impact towards building the skills and stakeholder cooperation needed to develop a peaceful, sustainable and fun cultural tourism destination. The trainees discovered an important common ground they all shared: using tourism as a means for poverty reduction in Kayah.
‘The innocuous return to peace and
normality is one of the important contributions
or achievements of ITC’s NTF III
project,’ said author Pascal Khoo Thwe of
‘Tourism can bring peace to Myanamar. ITC’s inclusive tourism project has stabilized peace for Kayah state,’ said Ohn Maung, Myanmar’s Minister for hotels and tourism.
The inclusive nature of the NTF III Myanmar project does not end in Kayah state, it has a knock-on effect throughout the tourism value chain, fostering collaboration and partnerships with national and international stakeholders.
In addition to the results achieved in Kayah state, 25 Myanmar tour operators based in Yangon were coached on export marketing and assisted to link up with international tour operators. Staff from national and local tourism associations were trained to deliver better services to clients. The project also published guidelines for developing better destination branding and promotional material.
International outbound tour operators are the drivers of tourism to Myanmar and ITC worked to promote Kayah state at major international tourism fairs such as the Berlin Internationale Tourismusbörse (ITB) and the World Travel Market in London. The development of national Code of Conducts for visiting ethnic minority areas have been facilitated by ITC with a wide range of tourism stakeholders, using the best practice example of Kayah.