Inclusive Tourism in Myanmar – Kayah State

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Tourism in Myanmar has so far been concentrated on traditional highlights: the bustling capital of Yangon, the colonial era charm of Mandalay, the temples of Bagan and tranquil beauty of Inle Lake. Recent political changes have stimulated tremendous interest from international visitors wishing to go beyond these highlights and discover new and authentic regions in Myanmar.

Kayah State is a recently opened destination in the east of Myanmar for pioneers seeking inspiring travel and an encounter with local ethnic communities. Since 2014 ITC has worked with the government of Myanmar to develop suitable cultural and ecotourism products, preparing local communities for the arrival of international visitors.

Myanmar is viewed by many industry observers as among the world’s most promising emerging travel destinations. As a consequence of political and economic changes it is experiencing rapid growth in tourism arrivals. In 2015 Myanmar attracted more than 5 million international visitors. Myanmar’s recent Responsible Tourism Policy has paved the way for the development of community tourism. One of the aims of the policy is to ensure an equitable distribution of the benefits from tourism into new regions, encourage local entrepreneurship and involve local communities in innovative product development. Closed for over half a century, recently opened to visitors, and finally accessible by air and road, Kayah is one of Southeast Asia´s last frontiers for inspiring, authentic travel. With pristine nature, ethnic diversity and a location close to Inle Lake and the Thai border, Kayah holds great potential for community based tourism in the small local villages and offers a privileged insight into traditional ways of life. Since 2014 the International Trade Centre (the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations), in partnership with the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MoHT) and Ministry of Commerce (MOC) has supported the development of new cultural and nature tourism products in Kayah State. Local government and communities in Kayah have been supported in their preparations for the arrival of international tourists and in doing so with respect to the local culture and environment.

During their stay visitors have several alternatives for enjoying Kayah’s beautiful nature, participating in cultural exchange and experiencing village life. Guests can follow the “trail of the ancestors” with local villages as guides and sample local cuisine at a “jungle picnic”. The tours are targeted towards guests who wish to leave the “beaten path” and experience the true local culture that exists outside traditional tourist routes. The objective is to establish a new tourism destination in Kayah with minimal disruption to the local environment and existing way of life, opening the potential for sustainable, community driven economic development with benefits that are widely and equitably shared.

Follow a tourist through the visually and culturally rich Kayah State in Myanmar.

Kayah is Myanmar’s smallest state and one of the most culturally diverse. Tourists can now delve deeper into Kayah’s unique history by taking part in the cultural and creative tourism activties developed under the ITC Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) III Myanmar project focusing on inclusive tourism in Kayah State.

Film director: Max Kerkhoff
This film is the winner of the 2016 ITB Golden City Gate Awards.

ITC’s Inclusive Tourism project in Myanmar aims to enhance trade competitiveness of the tourism sector in Kayah State.

This will be achieved by integrating local producers and service providers into the tourism value chains on the one hand, and helping inbound tour operators in Myanmar to develop inclusive tourism tours in Kayah State, and promoting the region in international markets.

The NTF III Myanmar project follows the same logic as the overall programme, targeting job creation and export competitiveness in the country’s tourism industry and related supply chains.

To achieve long-term impact and outcome, the project will deliver in three main ways:

  • Increase the export capacity of tour operators and tourism-related suppliers of goods and services in Kayah State – Through an inclusive approach, new tourism services such as cultural and community tours will be introduced to promote revenue generation and improve local supply chains. These tours will offer tourists a glimpse into the lives, cultural practices and traditions of the local ethnic communities. Cultural performances, handicraft production and cooking demonstrations will be held to showcase the rich heritage of the people of Kayah State. These tours will be developed in collaboration with local tourism stakeholders, such as communities, producers, local government, tour operators, guides and related enterprises.Tour operators will be encouraged to improve the quality of their products and services to meet the international standards of visiting tourists. Tourism export promotion training will be held for 25 tour operators to help familiarize them with European and Asian markets, and to enable them to acquire practical skills on export marketing, promotion and management. This training is a replication of the Netherlands Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) tourism EXPRO training tailored to the needs of Myanmar inbound tour operators.Local craftsmen and women, and food producers will benefit from training on quality, design, packaging and sanitary measures.
  • Increase the capacity of tourism associations (UMTA, MTM) as well as associations involved in tourism-related supply chains to provide sector development support services to clients – This project strengthens the tourism-related institutional infrastructure in Kayah state and supports the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) and Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM). The project also assists Kayah State’s trade support institutions (TSIs) in enhancing the quality of services and support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).The local government will be a beneficiary of the project through support for the branch office of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) in Kayah State. The project will help to strengthen the government’s ability to integrate tourism planning into local governance structures through public-private partnerships to support local SMEs and producers in business networking.To ensure ownership and sustainability, selected staff from the Yangon-based UMTA and MTM will be trained to become CBI EXPRO training coaches. The trainees will be able to provide future coaching services to tour operators in Kayah State. Using this train-the-trainer multiplier effect, the project will improve institutional capacities and develop tourism-competent human resources.
  • Enhance business linkages and partnerships – The project creates and strengthens business linkages for local producers and tour operators by integrating them into existing tourism value chains and promoting more equitable redistribution of revenue.A three-phase branding strategy consisting of opportunity assessment, stakeholders’ engagement, brand design and implementation will be applied to Kayah state. ITC will facilitate participation of inbound tour operators offering Kayah state as an itinerary to at least one international trade fair, and jointly organize with CBI side events focusing on Kayah Satate. These trade fairs and events serve as a networking platform for tourism enterprises in Myanmar to link up with international outbound tour operators which will facilitate business growth.

Source: International Trade Centre

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