Can Myanmar begin the journey to sustainable and quality tourism?

 

reportThe Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business today published a sector-wide impact assessment on tourism which highlights some of the positive and negative impacts tourism can have on the country, and the choices to be made.

The second sector-wide impact assessment (SWIA) by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), follows on from the SWIA on oil and gas highlights a number of actual and potential impacts of tourism development. The MCRB is co-founded by the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Some of Myanmar’s flagship sites such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaiktiyo, are already under environmental and social pressure from the effects of tourism, which is affecting the livelihoods of local inhabitants and long-term viability of these places as tourism destinations.

The SWIA makes recommendations to government, businesses, civil society groups, tourists and other stakeholders intended to increase positive impacts and reduce negative impacts.

Myanmar already has in place a number of government policies to encourage responsible tourism. However, a lack of capacity and resources means that implementation of these policies is incomplete. Launching the report, MCRB Director, Vicky Bowman, said:

At the moment, there’s too much focus on hard infrastructure and in particular, hotel construction. Myanmar needs to rein in the rush to create so-called ’hotel zones’, where land is compulsorily acquired for multiple hotels, often on environmentally sensitive sites. Our field research repeatedly showed that many of the negative impacts we found were associated with hotel zones. What is needed – as the government’s own Master Plan identified – is participatory destination management and a ‘zonal planning’ approach, which is not the same thing as establishing a ‘hotel zone’”.

The assessment also found that local communities were still not sufficiently engaged in decisions on tourism development. “Engagement, consultation and participation of stakeholders should form the basis of tourism development projects from the very start.  This is particularly important in ethnic minority and post-conflict areas where tourism businesses should take the time to understand the conflict and communal dynamics, and how local people would like to see the destination opened to tourists and benefits shared”, said Allan Jørgensen, from the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The SWIA highlights the significant job creation and poverty alleviation potential of tourism. It also highlights potential threats, drawing on experiences from the region such as Cambodia and Thailand.  For example, children are vulnerable to the impacts of tourism through phenomena such as ‘orphanage tourism’ and some types of ‘voluntourism’.  On this, and other issues, the SWIA identifies relevant international standards and initiatives, and highlights relevant good practices both in Myanmar and other countries.

Download the report: Myanmar-Tourism-Sector-Wide-Assessment

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