Asian Development Bank extends Myanmar a helping hand

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) is considering rendering assistance to develop Myanmar’s tourism industry, most likely through its Sustainable Tourism Development Project (STDP), which is currently being implemented in Laos and Vietnam.

ADB country director – Thailand Craig Steffensen said visitor numbers to Myanmar had been on an uptrend since 2009, with significant opportunities for future growth, especially with the government keen to support the sector’s expansion.

“Myanmar’s tourism sector is blooming rapidly. Hotels and airlines are all booked now; this is a good sign,” Steffensen said. “But we want to know how Myanmar can handle this situation in the right way. We are considering how we can help (but) can’t say when and how much we will provide.”

According to Steffensen, tourism growth would also bring challenges, such as cultural and environmental sustainability issues, and these could be addressed through the STDP.

“Myanmar should take care of (these issues) and find the right way to promote tourism,” he said. “We are also looking forward to the chance to work together not only on (tourism) but also other sectors, such as the environment.”

According to tourism consultant Kyi Kyi Aye, Myanmar currently only receives indirect support from the ADB through Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) initiatives.

“But now ADB has attended this GMS meeting in Myanmar and they are interested in (supporting) our tourism sector,” she said. “It would be very good if they could provide infrastructural and technical assistance on sustainable tourism development.”

Khin Than Win, a director at Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, believes the bank’s policy on Myanmar was becoming more “flexible”.

“As Myanmar is not in a position to initiate strategic projects, we requested the ADB to provide some assistance regarding the building of tourist information centres and the provision of technical expertise,” she said.

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