BERLIN, 7 March 2018: Myanmar Tourism Marketing has urged European tour operators to support tourism in the country and be leaders in sustainability by continuing to engage with Myanmar.
They were speaking at a press conference on the opening day of ITB Berlin, Wednesday.
The agency, made up of private and public sector organisation, promotes tourism to Myanmar, but it has seen a strong pushback from European travellers after government forces wiped out hundreds of Rohingya villages in a 2017 military campaign that UN condemned as bordering on genocide.
“We call on everybody visiting ITB to support the Myanmar tourism industry and actively promote Myanmar as a sustainable tourist destination,” the delegation said. “We ask people not to politicize tourism, but instead help Myanmar to celebrate its cultural diversity,” said Myanmar Tourism Marketing chairperson, May Myat Mon Win.
But the calls for support will face criticism from those who believe the damage was self-inflicted and an attempt to pass responsibility to outsiders calling for their support to keep tourism flowing to Myanmar was unrealistic.
Tourism is no longer viewed as existing in a vacuum, immune to outside influences including politics. A new breed of travellers looks for genuine experiences and is ready to make a statement on matters that impact on the wellbeing of people and the environment.
There is evidence to suggest that as long as the government oscillates on seeking an acceptable resolution on the Rohingya issues, some tourists will go elsewhere, regardless of how tour operators respond, or sell the destination. The future prosperity of the nation will depend on how it deals with its minority ethnic groups and the recent crackdown on the Rohingya needs redress and a long-term solution that respects humanity.
In 2017, Myanmar recorded 1.1 million arrivals through its main gateway Yangon International Airport. While that represents an increase of 7% over 2016, the main supply markets were in Asia. European arrivals grew by a marginal 2% possible held back by political considerations.
When all land and sea entry points are included, tourist arrivals reached around 3 million in 2017.
The main increases were from China and other Asian countries, where the decision to travel is not weighed so heavily by political or ethical considerations.
Myanmar is a safe country for tourist with a very low crime rate. But for European travellers, it’s the national shame of dislodging the minority ethnic group known as Rohingya that is more troubling for tourists who want their travels to have a meaning beyond personal enjoyment.
Myanmar Tourism Marketing believes the best way to help Myanmar’s rural communities is to keep travelling to the country. This prompts it to invite hundreds of travel bloggers, travel writers and trade media to join fully sponsored junkets in return for positive stories.
During its ITB press conference, Myanmar Tourism Marketing launched a special green season brochure that identifies the advantages of travelling to the country during the rainy season from May until September.
The incentives include enjoying a green landscape that replaces the parched and arid vistas of the hot season March to April. Road and trails are no so dusty and the rain cools down temperatures in the lowlands.
There are also cheap deals on hotel rates and airfares, although foreigners pay double what residents pay to fly domestic services.
Myanmar’s tourism industry argues that having more tourists in 2018 will help in poverty reduction and connect communities all around the country. The focus will be on promoting emerging destinations in Shan, Mon, Kayin, Kayah, Chin and Rakhine states as well as the Dawei and Myeik archipelago in the far south.