A new sustainable lodge is aiming to lure more longhaul travellers to Myanmar’s untouched coastline, while giving back to the community.
Lalay Lodge opened its doors in January in the remote fishing village of Maung Shwe Lay in Rakhine State, offering visitors a slice of tropical beach paradise combined with a glimpse into authentic rural Burmese life.
In line with the values of conscious travellers, the nine-room resort was designed by Australian architect, Mary Lou Thompson, using natural, locally-sourced materials to blend in with its surroundings.
All 15 staff have been recruited from the village and undergone hospitality training. They are headed by an English-speaking general manager, who is also the only foreign employee.
As part of its sustainable pledge, the lodge has launched a coral reef protection programme and set up a waste collection system for the 1,500 villagers. It also uses solar power and no single-use plastic, and reuses grey water.
Edwin Briels, Lalay Lodge co-owner, said: “Involving communities is what tourism should be all about.”
Briels, who is also managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, has been organising day trips to the village, which sits a combined one-hour tuk tuk and boat cruise from Thandwe (Ngapali) airport, for the last seven years.
He said: “My local business partner (for the lodge) told me that if you’re born in a community like this and don’t want to be a fisherman or farmer, then there are no proper jobs. That’s why we started.”
Briels predicts the majority of guests will be longhaul travellers from Australia, Europe and America. They will also tap into regional visitors wanting to experience traditional Asian village life.
Added Briels: “It’s really good for communities to have jobs in their own area and building small lodges is one way to do this. Tourists don’t want to go to only the big attractions; they want to explore more of the countryside and do off-the-beaten-track activities. It’s really about village life, which is amazing in Myanmar.”
Currently, the average stay at the lodge is three nights, with management working with DMCs and FITs through online platforms, such as Booking.com and Agoda.