How can a massive growth in tourism happen in a sustainable way? This is the challenge currently faced by Southeast Asian country Myanmar. Previously called Burma, the country had one million visitors just five years ago, and this past year they have already had over three million. "We need to manage growth, and we need to manage it sustainably," proclaimed Mario Hardy of PATA at ITB Berlin Convention. Getting away from the "bucket list” phenomenon is important. "We want to encourage tourists to go beyond the main sights, because that is what will help improve the lives of the people," Hardy is convinced. For Myanmar this means promoting not only the highlights, such as Bagan or the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, but opening up other tourist regions as well. One of these is Kayah State in the eastern part of the country, which has only been accessible to international tourism for the past few years. It has diverse nature and an interesting cultural heritage to offer, explained the Tourism Consultant Pascal Khoo Thwe from Myanmar, referring to the traditions of the pre-Buddhist animist culture.
At ITB Berlin, Willem Niemeijer of travel organizer Khiri Group & Travel & Reach showed much interest in starting the first projects in Kayah State. "We would really like to do something in Kayah State," said Niemeijer, who can report a number of successful projects in Thailand, Cambodia and in Kayin State, adjacent to Kayah State.
Phyoe Wai Yar Zar of the Myanmar Marketing Committee explained that his country already expects more than four million visitors this year. In order to make development sustainable, they rely primarily on private-public partnerships. Many development agencies and foundations from Germany and the Netherlands as well the International Trade Centre (ITC) support Myanmar in its tourism diversification.