BANGKOK, 19 October 2017: Does tourism promotion have any role in resolving complex religious, political, socio-economic challenges such as currently being experienced by the Rohingya people and the Myanmar authorities?
Can tourism provide solutions for the long-term settlement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees crossing over the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh?
I believe not. Also with reference to the travel media (as opposed to mass media) they promote tourism, which provides a sustainable, trickle-down stream of revenue to the people, particularly the poor.
Does the travel media community want to restrict its support and stifle this revenue source?
No, I want to support and enhance it. Of course I am concerned that many people have been displaced and I hope the situation will improve soon. I equally believe that by not supporting tourism and the revenue it provides, would not be the answer.
Safety for tourists in Myanmar is not an issue as the refugee crisis is in a remote area near the border with Bangladesh, which has always been off-limits to tourists.
Visiting Myanmar is the right thing to do because travel benefits people all around the country from any race or religion.
In many countries we face similar issues that create tensions between different religious groups, usually in border areas.
Tourists are generally discouraged from venturing into sensitive areas. However that does not stop tourists enjoying wonderful holidays across the country. To resolve these issues will require a political solution.
I have visited Myanmar on numerous occasions, most recently in August and again earlier this month.
My visit in October was to review what is currently happening in Myanmar with regard to its tourism. I spent a week traveling the country under the guidance of Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM).
The highlight of the tour was the visit to Inle Lake to watch the magnificent Phaung Daw Oo festival and the one-legged boat races.
Throughout my trips this year to Myanmar I have experienced only happy warm smiles and wonderful welcomes. At no point was security ever an issue. Life is very much carrying on as normal.
Myanmar is moving into its high season and this is a great time to visit the country. I strongly recommend that you do so.
I’m very comfortable as a member of the international travelling community to continue to visit Myanmar and to provide the economy with tourism revenue as well as broaden my own travel experiences. As for the moral dilemma that asks us if we should be supporting Myanmar’s tourism, my answer is quite simple – yes.
About the author
English born Andrew J Wood, is a freelance travel writer and for most of his career a professional hotelier. Andrew has over 35 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a Skal member and director of WDA Travel Co. Ltd and its subsidiary, Thailand by Design (tours/travel/MICE). He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is also a former member of the Executive Committee of Skal International, National President Thailand, Club President of Skal Bangkok and is currently Skal Asia Area acting vice president Southeast Asia and director of public relations, Skal International Bangkok. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.