Myanmar Tourism Minister U Ohn Maung has launched a 100-day program to boost community-based tourism in six destinations. The aim is to relieve pressure on overcrowded sites like Mandalay, Bagan and Shwedagon Pagoda, while bringing more benefits to local communities.
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism director U Myint Htwe said community-based tourism (CBT) was being promoted because it was increasingly popular throughout the world. The ministry has selected six sites: Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State; Loikaw, Kayah State; Thandaunggyi, Kayin State; Pa-O Self-Administered Zone in Shan State; Myaing township in Magwe Region; and theIrrawaddy dolphin conservation centre based in six villages in Mandalay Region.
The country’s first-ever eco-tourism site, the Indawgyi wildlife sanctuary, was established by the ministries of tourism and environmental conservation in 2013.
The plan entails helping local residents provide bed-and-breakfast accommodation, with package tours organised by Inn Chit Thu organisation and other travel companies with funding from Fauna and Flora International.
Two ethnic Kayan villages, Hta Nee La Leh and Pan Pet in Loikaw township, have been offering CBT since 2014 with US$1.9 million in funding from the Netherlands Trust Fund.
A five-minute documentary about Kayah State won the Diamond Award at a competition held alongside the world’s largest travel show, ITB Berlin, on March 10.
During his visit to the villages of community-based tourism during Thingyan, the tourism minister promised to provide improved water and electricity supplies, and better transportation within 100 days. He is also trying to reduce the three-day period necessary for the issuance of a permit for foreigners to visit the area, said U Nay Moe Aung, managing director of 9 Generation Force travel company.
“We’ve got a lot of bookings for Kayah for next year,” he said, and added, “There is a plan to extend CBT and home stays into other villages in Kayah State, depending on the political situation.”
Thandaunggyi in Kayin State started offering B&B stays last year and now intends to open training classes in hospitality, regional guiding and spoken English, while extending the itinerary into Latetho, Thandaung and Bawgali towns in Taunggyi township this year, with support from the Hans Seidel Foundation and Peace Nexus.
Four villages in Nyaungshwe and Taunggyi townships in Shan State are already open to tourists. Plans to open up another five villages are being developed by the Parami Development Network and Golden Island Cottages, with funding from the Pa-O National Organisation. And in Myaing township, Magwe Region, six more villages will be added to the four that are already offering CBT, supported by ActionAid Myanmar International.
The Irrawaddy dolphin conservation project, in six villages between Myingun in Mandalay Region and Kyaukmyaung in Sagaing Region, also plans to offer B&B accommodation and other hospitality training with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society.