Myanmar tour operators advocate community interests

Communities must be kept at the heart of community-based tourism (CBT) projects if they are to thrive, said tour operators, as Myanmar announces three initiatives slated to open next year.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism revealed that it will work with communities in Ma Kyone Galet Salone, a sea gypsy village in Kawthaung, Don Nyaung Mhaing village in Myeik, and San Hlan village in Dawei to develop a range of tourism products.

CBT can be one of Myanmar’s tourism pillars, but needs to be managed well and sensitively

With Myanmar home to more than 135 ethnic groups, offering a diverse range of traditions, cultures and religions, and a swathe of remote villages giving a glimpse into village life, CBT has been earmarked as an important pillar to drive tourism while providing a sustainable form of income for impoverished communities.

Whin Eindray Wint Wah, director general of Pan Thu Kha Travels and Tours, said: “This is a good way to grow tourism in more rural areas, and there is a lot of potential. But it needs to be developed carefully, and with the communities.”

Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Myanmar, said CBT projects are a “good move” for Myanmar. However, efforts need to be made to ensure the tourist dollar benefits communities regardless.

He added carrying out marketing and receiving backing in the form of bookings is also essential. Said Briels: “A challenge is ensuring that high hopes created by a community are met in reality by sending enough paying customers to a project. On the flip side, balanced marketing of a project is very important to avoid disappointment among visitors, if the project is a simple or humble one.”

Bertie Lawson, managing director of Sampan Travel, said with CBT opportunities spanning the spectrum, it is necessary to ensure attractive products are developed.

Lawson said: “CBT can be done well, and it can be done badly. It is vital that all such projects are led by the communities themselves, and that they offer something authentic and of interest to tourists in Myanmar.”

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