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UN agency urges caution on tourism
By Yu Yu Maw
Volume 32, No. 634
July 9 – 15, 2012

OFFICIALS from the United Nations World Travel Organisation have warned Myanmar to prepare for a surge in tourists and take steps to control the impact of rapid tourism growth on the country.

Speaking at a workshop in Yangon on July 3, Mr Xu Jing, UNWTO’s director for the Asia Pacific region, said industry leaders should not prioritise tourist arrivals alone and should instead focus on sustainable development.

“A huge inflow is coming to your country in terms of international visitors. This is very encouraging news but we should also consider this gold rush as something that needs to draw our attention and concern to make sure it goes in the right direction. We must take responsibility to make sure to handle that sudden influx of international visitors,” Mr Xu Jing said.

He said there were three areas Myanmar should consider when trying to limit the impact of tourism: what sort of market Myanmar has or should have, what kind of supply the country has and how to meet the demand in a sustainable way.

The Strategic Tourism Planning for Myanmar workshop, which was attended by representatives from both the public and private sectors, came about following the visit of the UNWTO secretary in May.

“Growing 35 percent tourism arrivals is a very good result but don’t think too much about trying to increase arrivals in a short time,” said Mr Hans Carl Jacobsen, who has been a UNWTO consultant for 20 years. “Make sure arrivals are an amount that you can handle … and think about a ‘value not volume’ strategy.”

He also encouraged the government to take measures to ensure the majority of the profits from tourism went to Myanmar businesses.

“Let’s be honest and say that we all need money, to make money through the tourism sector. But it should be for this country’s people, not for outsiders.”

Daw Kyi Kyi Aye, a consultant for the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said the government appreciated the suggestions from the UNWTO and they would be considered when the ministry draws up its tourism master plan.

But Mr Jacobsen cautioned against only formulating long term plans, and said short term measures were also needed to bring the sector up to speed.

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