Myanmar is situated in the crossroad of China and India which are the world great civilizations. It is the largest country in South East Asia, which is rich in natural wildlife and cultural resources. 60% of the country is covered by rivers and the Ayeyarwady river is the life-blood of the country. The horseshoe-shaped mountain complex is the dominant the geographic features of Myanmar. Hkakabo Razi ,5881 meters height, is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The population is over 60 million, and has eight major ethnic groups; more than 10 minorities’ ethnicity in each group. As Myanmar is home to various ethnic groups, the differences and colourful cultural, traditional way of life, festivals are very fantasizing. Myanmar is steeped in history and the legacy of various kingdoms. There are unique archaeological sites, ancient cultural edifices and traditional arts and crafts. So it is obvious that Myanmar has great tourist potential and attractions in many fields. But Myanmar tourism industry remains nevertheless a growing sector of the economy, compared to neighbouring countries.
1. Socio-Economic background
Since 1962, Myanmar had been isolated nation, and all economic industries including tourism sector became state-owned. The visa validity was reduced to 24 hours, as a result, the tourism industry become shrink quickly. In 1990, the new military government came and the tourism market was authorized to open, foreign investments were allowed. In 1996, “Visit Myanmar Year” was introduced, officially opened the doors to tourists. The Leader of the Burmese Democracy Movement, 1991 Noble Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Su Kyi against the “Visit Myanmar Year” campaign and called upon foreign nations not to come Myanmar; arguing that tourism legitimizes the dictatorship in place and asking tourists to wait until the situation improves. During two decades, it hasn’t developed as expected although the government tries to develop as one of the economic priorities .This is explained by several factors,
1.1Foreign Currencies exchange rate
In the past, foreign revenue and currency from tourism industries were not effective in GDP and to the population, only profits to the Generals as they are siphoned off by the military. There are two exchange rate; official rate of $1=6kyats (local currency) and the real rate of exchange of around $1=1000kyats which is more than 150 times. Therefore, for every 100 dollars paid to the country’s authorities, only 600 kyats contributed to the national budget, while the actual amount collected by the top is 100,000kyats. Moreover, the Myanmar population was not allowed to possess foreign currency.
The development of infrastructure did not generate employment to the population due to the use of forced labour. Although it should have been a considerable employment reservoir for the population, it turned to burden for Myanmar citizens. Finally, the economic benefits serve the military monopoly and support the reinforcement of the dictatorship rather than to the Myanmar citizens.
1.2 Civil War
In Myanmar, there are limited tourist accesses to some areas of the country because of on-going conflicts with various ethnic minorities. The political situation was not stable and reliable security could not be provided in those areas where the most attraction places such as Kachin State and Chin State have. Mount Hkakabo Razi, the highest mountain, in Kachin State, RI (Heart) Lake in Chin State and some beautiful places are unaware by tourism industry.
1.3 Transportation and Communication Barriers
In Myanmar, airway, railway, motorway and waterway are available. Although railway service is the common transportation, the technical condition remains poor. Motorway is also the main route in major cities, but the roads are in poor condition and cannot be passable during the rainy season. The common public transportation; trishaw and taxi, commuting buses are not reliable and effective except from Yangon. To some tourist destination such as Kachin State, only flight can be available. The number of flights is inadequate and most are unreliable. There are 69 airports the whole country, only 11 of them had runways over 10,000 feet (3248 meters). Of the 11 airports, adequate facilities are not provided expect from Yangon International Airport and Mandalay International Airport. These barriers make delay the development of tourism industries.
Insufficient communication facilities make slow down the tourism development. The communication sector has been monopolised by the government, Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) since 1962. By 2011, a fixed-line telephone service cannot be arranged in most villages. As said by the ITU, the official waiting list for telephone service stood at 100,000 by 2002 and had increased to 250,000 by 2009.Myanmar’s mobile market has grown since four years,1.2 million mobile subscribers has been on Myanmar’s mobile market .But still early 2012 ,only 1.2 million mobile entered less than 3%. Mobile phone can be accessible only in some major cities. Moreover, Internet connection is slow and erratic.
Another reason was that accommodations are not sufficiently provided. In the whole country, the number of hotels is 25,000 rooms of all classes in 730 hotels and guest houses.
2. The current situation
Political reforms initiated since November, 2010, President U Thein Sein came to power and Myanmar Democracy icon, Daw Aung San Su Kyi was released from home arrested. The subsequent easing of international trade sanctions has seen the country become the new tourism hotspot. Furthermore, the relationship between international has been improved significantly, especially the visit of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Starting from October, visa-on-arrival was allowed by the Ministry of Immigration at Mandalay and Naypyidaw airport. (According to Irrawaddy news). A new airline, Etihad is planning routes into Myanmar’s big cities while existing airlines such as Thai Airways is increasing their service.Domestic airline MAI will start flying to Hong Kong, Seoul and Laos from Oct1, 2012. After the political changes, Myanmar officially welcomed 391,000 international visitors which are almost 26 percent more than the previous year. But most of them are business persons and cross-border visitors.C:UsersPhyumar LwinDesktopDownloadr620-1a412a958d03694f2d28f85d241c4167.jpg
The government made ceasefire agreements with SSA (South State Army), the Chin National Front, the Karen National Union. Tour package are allowed to some prohibited areas.
3. The socio-economic changes by Tourism-Industries
Tourism is a process which can significantly effect on socio-economic changes of the country. The level of impact can vary on various aspects. Since it brings economic development; increase foreign exchange, generating more job opportunities, reduction in migration of labour out of development area, cultural heritage and traditional ways of life are not alive anymore. Some obvious positive effects on the local community and economic are foreign income can be contributed to gross domestic product of the nation.
3.1 Employment opportunities
Developing tourism-industries can promote job vacancy in the blossoming hotels and other related service industries. It includes both direct and indirect employment as it is cover up all sectors (transportation, manufacturing, accommodation and service industries).The direct contribution of tourism industry to GDP in 2011 was MMK 615.5bn (1.4% of GDP.(See Appendix3) Local people can be employed in hotel zones and constructing infrastructure, personal income can be increased as a result of improvement of tourism initiatives based by community. In 2011, the percentage of foreign income by tourism in employment was 1.1% of total employment (299,000 jobs). This is forecast to grow by 2.9% in 2012 to 308,000. Indirect employments are also developed in numerous sectors such as transportation, local manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade including local restraunts. This can be one of the effective solutions to Myanmar’s unemployment problem and labour migration. Visitor exports are a key component of the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism with MMK92.3bn in 2011. This is expected to grow by 5.2% in 2012. (WTTC report)
3.2 Local Quality and Sense of Place
It is obvious that tourism industries would be a short pathway to make the transformation from a traditional way of life to modern life style by developing infrastructure. In Myanmar, most of the cities are not well- developed expect most crowded cities like Yangon, Mandalay. Moreover, diversity of ethnic groups and different traditional cultures are being preserved in order to keep tourist interest. It can also promote a chance to tourists and Myanmar alike to develop the awareness and appreciation the richness of Myanmar’s history and culture, traditional festivals. As a consequence, Myanmar handicrafts such as Lacquer Ware, Jade, painting, Tapestry, etc. can be widening.
For many decades, Myanmar tourism industry has been isolated and outpaced by neighbouring countries. After the changes of political situation, it led to highly positive effect on this sector. It might be the advantage for Myanmar to avoid the mistakes done by neighbouring countries. Tourism which can benefit both for local and tourists such as ecotourism, cultural tourism, volunteer tourism and natural tourism can be promoted and built economic in a sustainable way. Moreover, it can bring both positive and negative effects to the local quality. In order to decrease the negative effects on local society, these following points can be done (Fennell 1999).
Local people should involve in the tourism industry as employees.
The organization should cooperate with the local businesses.
Volunteer tourism, ecotourism, and cultural tourism should be developed.
Local products should be more promoted.
Travel and tourism is expected to perform well over the forecast period. In the future, there is expected to be privatization in travel and tourism, less military involvement, positive momentum to tourism sector in Myanmar.
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