Manila – Asian Development Bank and Norway will assist Myanmar to cope with a mini-boom in tourism through a US$225,000 grant that will create a sustainable tourism master plan.
“Myanmar is undergoing a period of dramatic change, and skyrocketing tourist arrivals are already putting existing tourism infrastructure under enormous strain,” said, ADB head, Extended Mission in Myanmar, Putu Kamayana. “To ensure benefits are sustainable and extend to more people, the country needs a comprehensive plan that respects culture and the environment.”
International visitor arrivals were up by more than 25% in 2011, and could top 1 million this year, generating an estimated US$390 million in annual foreign exchange and supporting about 50,000 jobs.
The million mark was supposed to have been passed 10 years ago, but due sanctions that extended to tourism in response to decades of corrupt military rule, travel faltered falling well behind its neighbours.
“Greater contact with the rest of the world is having a positive effect on a country that had been closed for a long time,” said Norway’s Ambassador to Myanmar, Katja Nordgaard.
“Also, the tourism has great potential for providing jobs for many people more rapidly than in many other sectors, but as the same time, great damage can be done if development takes place in an uncoordinated manner.
“So when the Myanmar Government asked Norway to assist in the development of a master plan to develop tourism in a sustainable manner, we were happy to say yes and pleased to establish this first cooperation project with ADB to provide the technical assistance to Myanmar.”
Plans to enhance connectivity to major markets, improve the investment climate, expand air and hotel services, and introduce visas-on-arrival and electronic visas for tourists all point to an even faster rate of expansion in the future.
At the same time, existing tour operators and hotels are already overwhelmed. There are reports of room shortages and a lack of skilled workers. The rapid influx of visitors to pristine natural sites such as Inle Lake is straining the environment, raising fears of pollution and threats to wildlife.
The grant will pay for a sector assessment to examine Myanmar’s tourist assets and liabilities, visitor traffic, infrastructure and human resource needs, existing laws and policies, and the role of private sector organisations. It will also look into the cultural and environmental impacts of tourism, and recommend new policies and investments to ensure the industry’s expansion is sustainable, with the benefits equitably shared.
The project will be carried out over nine months, with completion in 2013. The grant, provided by the Government of Norway, will be administered by ADB.
Earlier this year Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in cooperation with Hanns Seidel Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in Germany, worked on drafting a responsible tourism policy with workshops held around the country to solicit advice on the policy from industry stakeholders.
The policy cover topics such as prevention of child sex tourism; prevention of trafficking of people and rare animals; education for communities and the tourism industry; development of a star rating system; and promotion of local foods, culture and heritage.