YANGON- The daily newspaper Myanmar Times reported that Norway has endorsed the financing of a tourism master plan for Myanmar. The Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide made the announcement at a consultation meeting on the plan on November 5.
Norway was one of the first countries to withdraw its advice to its nationals not to visit Myanmar, said the minister, who has visited this country three times. This was done “in the belief that greater contact with the rest of the world would have a positive effect on a country that had been closed for a long time,” he said.
The tourism master plan, which will guide the environmentally and socially sustainable development of the sector, will be drawn up by a team from Thammasat University’s Centre of Innovation in cooperation with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the Asian Development Bank. Team leader Dr Paul Rogers announced that the draft tourism master plan on January 31, 2013 and finalise it by the end of March.
The team already consulted more than 150 people in Nay Pyi Taw, Inle Lake, Tachileik, Kengtung, Kawthoung, Yangon and Kyaikhtiyo.
Norway Foreign Minister pointed out that Norway is also supporting conservation work at Inle Lake that is being carried out by UNDP, the Institute of International Development, and UN-HABITAT.
In the first half of 2012, international tourist arrivals increased by more than 30 percent compared to the same period last year, making Myanmar one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations.
“Rapid tourism growth presents the country with many opportunities and challenges,” Mr. Eide said. “Tourism is a labour-intensive industry that can quickly create jobs across all levels of society, help to strengthen economic ties across borders, promote international friendship, and foster greater appreciation of Myanmar’s rich cultural and natural heritage.”
At the same time, damage to the environment and negative social impacts can occur if tourism development takes place in an unplanned and uncoordinated manner. A sustainable tourism policy would rely on less energy-intensive forms of transport with fewer emissions, Mr Eide said, adding that the tourism industry also had a responsibility to help conserve the country’s cultural heritage.
Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung stressed the need to manage tourism responsibly and to avoid “killing the golden goose”. We are very conscious of the challenges of long-term sustainable tourism development,” he added.
The Thammasat University team comprises six tourism experts with different fields of expertise: Dr Rogers, tourism planner; Daw Kyi Kyi Aye, national tourism specialist; Dr Walter Jamieson, human resource development; Ms Pawinee Sunalai, cultural heritage management; Ms Nicole Hausler, social environmental safeguards; and Mr John Koldowski, marketing and promotion.