Tourism Transparency is non-partisan, and it’s not easy for us sometimes. But there’s no other way to bring transparency to tourism in Burma—we absolutely must be non-partisan in order to be effective. We connect with many different tourism stakeholders to present the full spectrum of opinions.
We held a responsible tourism workshop at the NLD headquarters last year. Since then we communicate regularly with the NLD. Basically we tell them what’s going on from our perspective and ask them their opinions, after which we agree on the next steps. We take this approach with other stakeholders too.
Q: Can you outline specific and practical steps that Tourism Transparency recommends Burma adopt for: its beaches and coastal areas; the conservation of historical sites; the conservation of colonial architecture?
Coastal areas include some of the richest and most fragile ecosystems on earth, such as coral reefs and mangroves. Unspoiled beaches attract tourists, and locals benefit from tourism through economic growth and employment. Tourism will only be successful if the natural environment and biodiversity of Burma’s beaches remain pristine. The ecosystems of small islands are particularly vulnerable to ecological damage. Short-sighted and inadequate tourism planning can lead to the destruction of biodiversity. Tourist appeal can reduce, and local people, highly dependent on tourism because they swapped careers from fisherman to tour guide, can lose their entire existence.
Tourism Transparency recommends developing a sustainable policy and legal framework under which tourism occurs. We also recommend embracing proven sustainability technologies and building capacity of the many stakeholders involved in tourism. This will ensure that conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is included into tourism development policies that bring social, economic and environmental benefits.
Regarding conservation, I hope Burma will learn from Siem Reap in Cambodia. The Angkor International Coordinating Committee has developed a good visitor management model. The committee, chaired by UNESCO, decides on what restoration is allowed and how visits are managed. Siem Reap used to be a collection of quiet little fishing and farming villages, but within 10 years it turned into a tourist enclave.