1) Ms. Khin Omar Win, Co-founder, Balloons Over Bagan / Eastern Safaris — The most significant change is the freedom from fear. People are no longer scared to speak out. There is a feeling in the air of hope and living history as it is being made. There are few places on Earth these days that one visits and sees not just tourist sites and tribal culture, but also real change and history in the making.
2) Mr. Han Htun Win ‘Jonathan’, Guide, Kyaukme, Northern Shan State — I am so happy that guiding has become my profession. It makes my family proud…If I look back into the grim, hopeless pages of my past I can see me sitting in a chair doing nothing, as there weren’t many jobs in my area.
3) Ms. Tin Tin, cook and restaurant owner, Inle Lake area, Shan State — My dream is fulfilled thanks to tourism. I have been asked so many times by lots of people about the impact of tourism. The way I see it, tourism can help you and the people around you to build a better future. Tourism can play a positive role in the society — if you do it right and manage it well.
4) Mr. Nyi Nyi Naing, Guide, Inle Lake area, Shan State — Until 1992, tourism was run by the state. Most service providers were government staff. So people didn’t get much benefit from tourism. Most local cottage industries were dying….Now that tourism is booming, these cottage industries have become alive, especially lacquer ware, earthen wares, wood carving, tapestry, parasol making, hand weaving.
5) Mr. San Htwee Aung, Receptionist, Vesali Hotel, Mrauk U — To the north east of Mrauk U, in the hilly region, there are Chin tribal villages with tattooed women. Tourists visit these villages and they donate to build schools there. Before tourism there were no schools.
6) Ms. Naing Aye Ngin, Palaung village lady, Kyaukme, Northern Shan state — Our village is near Kyaukme in Northern Shan State. We earn our living by growing tea, corn, rice and vegetables. We hadn’t seen tourists for many years. So when we met them we were surprised and excited. Our village learned a lot from tourists. Now our children are trying to learn English and learn good things from visitors.
7) Mr. Sukhdeep Singh, Managing Director Myanmar Hotels, International (Strand, Inya Lake Hotel and Thamada Hotel), Yangon — There is a sense of new optimism in the people. They have a chance to participate in their destiny…. However, going forward there is need for infrastructure growth, ease of visa requirements and a more service-orientated approach.
8) Ms. Nicole Hausler, Senior Advisor on Responsible Tourism Myanmar Tourism Federation, Yangon — I hope that in the near future there will be more initiatives including hospitality training for small bed and breakfast owners, production of local handicrafts and village guide training. There is so much to discover in Myanmar, but we should plan it in a responsible manner.
9) Mr. Edwin Briels, General Manager, Khiri Travel Myanmar — Over the last four years I have seen people growing and becoming economically independent, learning new skills and applying these in tourism. I see people becoming more vocal and more aware of the world situation and how Myanmar is part of that world.
10) Ms. Sue Ozturk, General Manager, Yoma Cherry Lodge, Ngapali Beach — There are now so many more job opportunities in all fields, not just the hotel and tourism industry…Many more people’s standard of living has improved, although not for all by any means. But the change has been dramatic. This has been due to the country opening up, the easing of restrictions, and the tremendous investment. People’s lives have improved. There is so much more opportunity.
Myanmar at a Glance
Population: 56.3 million
Size: 654,000 km2 (about the same as Texas)
GDP growth: 8.5% (2014); 8.3% (2013); 7.3% (2012)
Exchange rate: 1USD = 1221 Kyat, pronounced “chat”
International visitor arrivals: 2014: 3.08m; 2013: 2.04m; 2012: 1.06m; 2011: 0.82m; 2010: 0.79m
Main attractions: Tourism companies operating in Myanmar currently identify six flagship destinations: Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock) and Ngapali Beach (Rakhine State). There are emerging areas such as the mountains of Putao, Nagaland, Hakha and Natmataung (Mt Victoria) in Chin State, and Loikaw in Kayah State. The Myeik Archipelago in Tanintharyi Division in Southeastern Myanmar has recently become more accessible for tourists previously only being accessible by liveaboard boats, mainly departing from Thailand.
Visas: E-visas are available within 3 working days for USD50 and are valid for 28 days; must be used within 90 days and are valid for one entry via Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports only
Recommended further reading on tourism in Myanmar: The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business tourism overview