Interview: Anders Aeroe
How will the ITC’s Inclusive Tourism project enhance the tourism sector in Kayah State?
ANDERS AEROE: Myanmar is emerging as an important new trade and investment partner, as well as travel destination in South-east Asia. It is estimated that 5m visitors will visit the country in 2015, up from 3m in 2014. Myanmar offers tourism experiences that cannot be found elsewhere. Beyond Myanmar’s top destinations (Bagan, Mandalay, Yangon and Inle Lake), there are many authentic places to discover. Kayah State is one of them. Endowed with pristine nature plus cultural diversity, Kayah is one of the states in Myanmar with the greatest potential to attract visitors. Despite this, it is one of Myanmar’s poorest states, with limited infrastructure. These factors led the ITC, in collaboration with the government of Myanmar, to set up an inclusive tourism project in Kayah State. The project, funded by the Dutch government, runs from 2014 to 2017 and focuses on cultural and ecotourism as a platform for job creation in poor rural communities.
Thanks to excellent collaboration with Myanmar and great interest from the tourism community, it is expected that the value of tourist spending will increase 20% in Kayah State along with a 30% rise in local products and services supplied to the tourism sector in the state. Two new cultural tourism tour packages are being created. Tourism performance will be strengthened and tour operators will have better insight into export market operations. The aim is to boost the tourism infrastructure’s ability to cope with and, at the same time benefit, from an anticipated growing influx of tourists to the country.
What measures are being taken by the ITC to ensure that the history and the landscape of the Kayah region remain intact?
AEROE: Finding the correct balance between economic development and the environment is critical. To mitigate the impact on the environment, the project will focus on supporting tourism-related activities in a sustainable and participative way, while ensuring there is awareness of responsible tourism and ecological preservation.
With these principles in mind, ITC helped develop, with local communities, cultural tourism tours in six traditional villages and put in place creative activities for tourists in weaving centres in Loikaw and Demoso and at the Ethnic Museum in Loikaw. Local knowledge and culture is celebrated, and what communities are ready to show to tourists is fully respected. Sustainability training with hotel and restaurant businesses is being carried out, and codes of conduct for excursions to the different communities in the state are being developed in a thoughtful and constructive fashion.
What are some priorities that have been identified in terms of increasing the export capacity of tour operators in Kayah State?
AEROE: The tour operators in Myanmar which cater to foreign tourists are eager to include the new Kayah State tourism products in their offerings. Some 16 of these tour operators have worked to develop an export marketing plan and have already begun implementing it, and 25 tour operators are being coached by ITC to better reach international markets and increase their capacity in order to engage with these markets.
ITC has also supported the development and growth of Myanmar’s tourism marketing and branding guidelines, enabling a strong, culturally significant, yet simple and dynamic brand to emerge. It is training private tourism sector associations and staff in the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on the use of these guidelines. ITC is committed to working with Myanmar to make sure that Kayah State remains a “must-see” destination for years to come.
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