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First Myanmar Tourism Conference

The first Myanmar Tourism Conference was held at Myanmar International Convention Centre II in Nay Pyi Taw on June 12.

The event was spearheaded by Vice President Henry Van Thio, who is Chair of the Central Committee for the Development of National Tourism Industry. The conference was aimed to include the tourism industry as a priority in the economic policy of the State, to highlight the importance of the tourism sector, to restore the image of the country, to protect and preserve the traditional cultures and natural environments, and to share the opportunity outcomes from the tourism industry with the people.

Myanmar needs more cooperation through the Public-Private Partnership system to promote the tourism sector, said the Vice President in his opening speech at the conference. He called for all participants of the conference to make the best and most effective discussions to create a conducive environment for the travel sector of the country. He also said that he hoped the national-level conference will support the implementation of the tourism sector development. The decisions based on the outcome of the discussions would be announced during the future work processes, the Vice President added.

Henry Van Thio stressed the need to conduct more market promotion and make international advertisement to make the world know more about Myanmar as a travel destination, saying that hotel and transport rate should not be above the international rate and the  services provided should be valued for costs to the visitors. The conference came as the outcome of the collective efforts of all stakeholders to develop the tourism industry and raise the image of the country among  the international community. “This conference is the final stage of the steps that we took together with the departmental officials, private business entrepreneurs, stakeholders of tourism industry and the public through the discussions and talks to develop the tourism industry, to solve the problems we face, to restore the reputation of the country, to respond the misunderstanding of international community based on the wrong information of our country,” said Tint Thwin, Director General of  the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism. During the conference, the respective industry stakeholders talked on the topics of destination management, travel products development, market strategies for tourism industry and taxations, investment opportunities in providing training to raise the quality of the travel occupation and the future of the sector, the improvement of tourism industrial technologies and the development of vocational skills.

Union ministers, Chairman of the Nay Pyi Taw Council, ministers from regions and states, departmental heads, diplomats, travel entities and other relevant officials attended the conference. Former president Htin Kyaw and wife Su Su Lwin also attended the event.

Myanmar has been making strides to develop new tourist destinations to promote the country’s tourism market. It is also trying to promote eco-tourism, cultural tourism and community-based tourism (CBT) in resource-rich areas with historical landscapes, rivers, lakes, beaches, islands and forests. Myanmar also held the 3rd National Conference on Communities and Tourism (NCCT) in Kalaw from June 6 to 8. Jointly organised by Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), Myanmar Centre  for Responsible Business (MCRB) and Myanmar Responsible Tourism Institute (MRTI) with the support of GIZ Myanmar, the NCCT was aimed to discuss the interface of communities and tourism in Myanmar by bringing together tourism related stakeholders in communities that have recently started to receive visitors or are already a well-known tourist destination. The results of the 3rd National Conference on Communities and Tourism will be documented in a white paper for the sector. The main purpose of the NCCT is to provide a dialogue platform on opportunities and challenges for responsible tourism development among communities in the country as capacity building is particularly important for the development of the Community Based Tourism (CBT) projects that will attract tourists to the country and benefit local communities through incomes.

The first National Conference on Communities and Tourism was held in 2015 when HSF, MRTI and MCRB jointly organised the event in December that year in Nay Pyi Taw. The second conference also took place in Nay Pyi Taw in 2017 from June 13 to 14, attended by over 150 participants including existing community tourism projects as well as new initiatives, tour companies, international experts and parliamentariansrepresenting the areas where communities had expressed interest to participate in tourism.

The Myanmar Tourism Master Plan (2013-2020) suggests that 25 ministries have tourism-related roles and responsibilities, saying coordination across government ministries and departments is critical to promote a whole of government approach to sector development.

It makes the following recommendations to strengthen governance of the tourism sector.

  • Review the membership, roles, responsibilities and remit of the TDCC
  •  Assemble a small team of tourism experts to deliver high-level strategic briefings to key ministries and state/regional governments
  •  Support MOHT to design and deliver tourism industry awareness trainings for government technical staff • Support MOHT to design and deliver tourism destination planning awareness trainings for government technical staff
  •  Support MOHT to prepare toolkits to establish and operationalise DMOs
  •  Undertake tourism-related training needs assessments for key ministries
  •  Support MOHT and MOPF to design and deliver activity and financial planning for MOHT staff in branch offices
  •  Undertake training needs assessments with key government ministries and departments to gather critical and strategic tourism-related data • Undertake a review of visitor safety and crisis management protocols and processes
  •  Develop a public and private sector partnership to produce a 90-minute documentary film on the future of Myanmar’s tourism industry for wide distribution throughout Myanmar Many of these recommendations are centred around the need to raise tourism industry awareness and technical competence among government stakeholders.

While tourism might be viewed as one of many development priorities with awareness raising and capacity building needs across government departments, tourism is somewhat unique as consumers and investors travel to the point of production, and can arrive in increasing numbers with consequences that progressively overwhelm destinations causing growing problems for local governments, resident communities and the environment. Myanmar’s Responsible Tourism Policy and Master Plan warns against complacency and advocate action to prevent consequences that will undermine the industry’s potential at home and in the international arena. Myanmar attracted over 3 million tourist arrivals in 2017.