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Travel leaders symposium assesses Myanmar’s sustainable tourism potential

Travel leaders symposium assesses Myanmar’s sustainable tourism potential
December 21, 2011

Myanmar's landmark hosting of the first-ever Travel Leaders' Symposium on Sustainable Tourism presented an historic opportunity for over 100 travel industry representatives to gather, share their experiences and learn more about Myanmar.

Termed a great success by participants and observers, the Travel Leaders' Symposium was held under the joint sponsorship of Myanmar's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the Myanmar Tourism Board, in conjunction with the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

Myanmar Tourism Board Chairman Dr. Khin Shwe explained "we have been very pleased to welcome all of the local and international travel experts for this event, and we are delighted to have their knowledge and input as Myanmar returns to the world's spotlight as one of the newest and most exciting tourist destinations."

With Myanmar viewed as one of the world's most promising emerging travel destinations, and should remain so for many years into the future, the symposium drew delegates from south-east Asia and around the globe.

The meeting featured top speakers from the public and private sectors, as well as international organisations, who talked about the pros and cons of the expected growth and addressed various issues, from visa facilitation to potential destinations, from sustainable tourism destinations including National Parks to community-based tourism along with the better development of local handicrafts and cottage industries.

Myanmar is experiencing rapid growth in arrivals as the country as it opens up politically and economically.

According to the latest figures from Myanmar Directorate for Hotels and Tourism, from January to October this year Myanmar received 302,236 air travellers, a number close the total arrivals for the entire 2010 year, when the two international airports in Yangon and Mandalay welcomed 310,688 foreign travellers.

An additional 350,000 travellers arrived overland to Myanmar from January to October 2011.

According to data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Myanmar is projected to be among the world's fastest growing markets, with tourism increasing by 25% for the whole year 2011.

Myanmar has lagged behind much of Asia in developing its tourism industry, but the potential is enormous. The symposium noted Myanmar's wealth of untouched cultural and natural assets, and highlighted the need for the country to learn from mistakes and successes of other destinations.

One of Myanmar's greatest assets is its local population with its sense of genuine hospitality and friendliness. Some of the speakers urged Myanmar to develop an overall tourism master plan

For many years, the Asian Development Bank has been supporting sub-regional tourism cooperation in the GMS. In his presentation, Steven Schipani, ADB Social Sector Specialist, stressed that although the outlook for GMS tourism remained favourable, there was no doubt that brisk growth would put tremendous pressure on the sub-region's tourism assets.

Schipani explained "innovative approaches are needed, along with better tourism management to make sure benefits flow to the poor."

Among his suggestions: more community-based tourism and development of pro-poor supply chains; strategies for preventing and managing negative social impacts of tourism; mainstreaming environmental sustainability in the tourism sector; improving the protection of precious heritage assets; and policy and regulatory reform aimed at accelerating sustainable tourism investment.

PATA Chief Executive, Martin Craigs added "te private industry is the one that will look at developing business. However they will not regulate themselves. It is up to the government to create the right balance for the benefit of all, and the job of business enterprises to voice their opinion to governments. PATA will then help facilitating the dialogue between the various players of our industry."

For more information go to www.MekongTourism.org


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