Tourism destinations already under strain, survey finds

Making sure tourism does more good than harm – that is the aim of research conducted by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, whose results were released on February 20 at the MAC Tower in Yangon.

Some of Myanmar’s flagship sites such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaikhtiyo are already under environmental and social pressure from the effects of tourism, the survey said. This affects the livelihood of local inhabitants and the long-term viability of such places as tourism destinations.

“The number of local and foreign tourists has increased, which has had both good and bad effects. We want to increase the positive effects and reduce the negative impact of tourism,” said Daw Thi Thi Thein of the MCRB, who managed the survey.

The centre’s assessment makes recommendations to government, businesses, civil society groups, tourists and others.

“Spending by foreigners rose and the number of jobs increased. But negative impacts could arise if big companies pursue projects without negotiating with local residents,” she said.

The survey covered culture, the environment, gender, labour and child rights, and held consultations with residents of each region, she said.

The tourism sector would be better if the government provided awareness training to local residents about different cultures, capacity development and business consciousness. “Tourists might not come back if their experience is not satisfactory,” she said.

U Nyein Chan, co-founder of the Responsible Myanmar Organisation, said sharing tourism knowledge and experience would help local businesses. “This could help restaurants, transportation, souvenir shops and residents in regional,” he said.

The government already has policies to encourage responsible tourism, but the lack of capacity and resources means that implementation is incomplete, MCRB director Vicky Bowman said.

“There’s too much focus on hard infrastructure and hotel construction. Myanmar needs to rein in the rush to create hotel zones. Our field research showed that many of the negative impacts were associated with hotel zones. The government’s own master plan identified participatory destination management and zonal planning, which is not same thing as establishing a hotel zone,” Ms Bowman said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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