After a decades-long blanket ban on tourists, Kayah State in eastern Myanmar has opened up to the outside world. Travellers are pouring in to get a glimpse of its untouched beauty.
Channel NewsAsia‘s Pichayada Promchertchoo reports that there are fears Kayah’s old-world charm could be lost as locals look to chase the tourism dollar.
“We have limited knowledge of tourism and also very limited resources. If there is a tourism boom and more investors come here, we might lose our charming place,” said Win Nie from the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization that aims to develop Kayah State through sustainable tourism.
Despite an increase in visitors, tourism as an industry remains a new concept and a challenge for locals, many of whom are still unfamiliar with people from the outside world.
Frictions exist between ethnic groups and visitors, who sometimes come across as intrusive and disrespectful to tribal culture. Hospitality services are seen as generally poor and over-priced. Local transportation and tourist activities remain limited and waste management is an emerging challenge.
Yet, there is no denying that the eastern state, one of the poorest in the country, needs income from tourism in order to move forward. And there are positive examples of sustainable tourism practices, such as at a community-based tourism project launched 2014 by ITC, in partnership with the Myanmar government and the United Nations World Tourism Organization …