By Victor Gotevbe with Agency Report
Myanmar officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma, a sovereign state in Southeast Asia, bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east and China to its north and northeast, has selected Tanintharyi Region to benefit from the International Trade Centre (ITC) Tourism Project.
Tourism in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region is poised to grow and become more sustainable, after the government designated the picturesque southern state as the destination for an inclusive tourism project implemented by ITC.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism chose Tanintharyi after a feasibility study showed that the state had the greatest potential to benefit from the project, which is similar to an earlier ITC project that boosted job creation and incomes while supporting cultural heritage and contributing to peacebuilding in the country’s Kayah state.
Following the success of the Kayah state project, which started in 2014, Myanmar authorities asked ITC to extend its activities to other parts of the country. The project in Tanintharyi will be part of the fourth phase of the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF IV) portfolio of trade development projects, which started last December with funding from the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI). It will seek to bolster tourism capacity at the national and regional levels, while improving branding, marketing, and access to statistics.
The three-and-a-half-year NTF IV Myanmar project began this past December. In Tanintharyi, the project will take an approach similar to that in Kayah state under the third phase of the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF III), intervening across the value chain to build business linkages and improve tourism capacity and product quality.
Tanintharyi was chosen from among regions including Chin, Kayin, Mon and Shan after ITC studied the potential of the proposed destinations and assessed the feasibility of an ITC value chain tourism project. Myanmar’s southernmost region boasts the beautiful and remote Myeik archipelago, a cluster of more than 800 largely untouched islands with major tourism potential , as well as pristine beaches, unspoiled mountain forests and other eco-tourism sites. The region’s capital of Dawei is home to colonial architecture and pagodas.
ITC’s feasibility study found that, of the areas considered, Tanintharyi would enjoy the highest growth in international tourist arrivals, offering potential for market segments ranging from low-cost to upper mid-range
In terms of accessibility, the region borders Thailand, and its three airports – Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung – are a one-hour flight from Myanmar’s capital of Yangon.
Other advantages noted by the study include ongoing efforts by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to create a tourism master plan for Tanintharyi. The region also has a tourism development committee that brings together public and private sector tourism stakeholders and would be a ready-made partner for future cooperation. The villages surrounding Dawei offer potential for developing cultural tours centred on traditional way of life, arts, food, and religious practices, as do areas in northern and southern Tanintharyi. Myeik is a bustling harbour town with cottage industries such as a crab farming and candle-making that have the potential to earn extra money by organizing regular guided tours for tourists. Some villages in the region have already started to develop community-based tourism, but these initiatives are purely local and lack overall coordination.
Replicating the Kayah state model
Attracting tourists, particularly those from abroad, requires transport and hospitality infrastructure as well as well-trained workers and an ecosystem of services that can offer a broad portfolio of experiences to would-be visitors. ITC’s project in Kayah state worked to build capacity across the tourism value chain from inbound tour operators, local tourism agencies and local guides to hotels and restaurants – through skills training, product development, and strengthening tourism sector business associations. A key goal was to work with ethnic minority communities to create community-based cultural tourism products that would showcase cultural and environmental resources in a sensitive and responsible manner, thereby creating financial incentives for their preservation.
Over the course of the project, Kayah state saw sharp growth in tourist arrivals. Dozens of businesses working with the project reported substantial increases in workers’ incomes.
ITC will now seek to emulate these successes in Tanintharyi. At the same time, a portion of the funding for the NTF IV project will be used to further improve tourism products and services in Kayah and to extend them to other villages in the region.
In addition, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has requested ITC to provide support developing tourism potential in Chin state in western Myanmar, a sparsely populated region with diverse natural resources that is known for the distinctive face tattoos worn by women in some of its ethnic minority communities. ITC plans to invite tourism sector stakeholders from the region, which is keen to promote eco-tourism, to a study tour in Kayah to learn about the inclusive tourism project there. ITC will then coach these public and private sector representatives to replicate the approach in Chin, following up and refining advice on an ongoing basis.