Many tourists now wish to visit Burma, not least due to recent political developments.
In November 2010 we saw a redrafting of the government of Myanmar and the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then we have seen many events that have a number of continuing implications for tourism. Suddenly, there is much more tourism demand. The problem is now the immense need to develop infrastructure in the country, because there are insufficient capacities for all the tourists wanting to visit Burma.
Burma, the second largest country in Southeast Asia (after Indonesia) borders India, China, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos. Once hailed as the rice bowl of Asia, Burma today is one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 132 out of 179 countries in the United Nations’ 2010 Human Development Index. Along with Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Burma is considered as one of the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception 2011 rankings. Burma as a nation in crisis faces severe economic stagnation, endemic poverty and serious health and social welfare challenges. Due to Burma’s atrocious human rights record, ongoing political instability and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s call to boycott the country as a tourist destination for the past 15 years, only relatively few tourists have visited so far.
Burma received 791,000 tourists in 2010. Laos, a small communist country in South East Asia received 2.5 million tourists during the same period, and Thailand received nearly 16 million tourists in 2010. It is clear that Burma's tourism potential is immense. (See ASEAN tourism statistics in attachment below).
For the government of Myanmar, tourism is the one of the most important sectors where the country has vast potential and comparative advantage. The Myanmar government is likely to make major commitments to develop the tourism sector in the future, by integrating tourism in national development plans. Whether this type of development will be sustainable, and bring benefits to the poor and poorest remains to be seen. But a remarkable change of tone was noted in a draft tourism policy paper that Tourism Transparency was given a copy of (we did not receive permission not to publish the draft, so we're waiting for the official strategy paper). The draft tourism policy paper stated:
"The government and tourism stakeholders need to ensure that tourism generates economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry. The strategic integrated plan should focus on minimizing negative economic, environmental and social impacts. A clear sense of direction for future tourism development should be included in the national policy of the State."