Interview with Zeyar Myo Aung, Director of Tourism Promotion at Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
Zeyar Myo Aung has been for many years working inside the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. For ASEAN.Travel, he explains what are the new commitments of the newly-elected Myanmar Government and his Tourism Minister, H.E. U Ohn Maung.
Zeyar Myo Aung- There is certainly a reevaluation of our objectives within the Ministry. Our Minister comes from Inlay Lake and he has a true sensitivity towards a sustainable development of our country with a deep knowledge of the rural world. Growth just for the sake of growth is not anymore an objective for the Minister.
What will be the top priorities for tourism orientation?
Z.M.A.- New ideas from the Minister are to emphasize Community-based tourism as he believes that tourism is one of the most efficient way to bring wealth to impoverished communities. So far, CBT was only limited to a few areas within Myanmar where tourism grass roots already existed. Our aim is now to spread tourism benefits to more remote destinations or rural areas which got little exposure until today. Another aim from our ministry is to promote emerging destinations. That can be seen to a pendant of CBT. Rather than bringing more tourists in our country, the Ministry would now better see international travellers extending their stay, and consequently increase their spending. Our budget has been redistributed to increase help for CBT activities.
Are they some destinations to be short listed for promotion?
Z.M.A- The Ministry will of course continue to make promotion for all of our States, cities and tourism sites. However, we will emphasize more tourism in Kayah State, Karen State and also for the Myeik Archipelago.
The travel trade hopes that Myanmar will open more airports to international flights. What is the Ministry’s position?
Z.M.A.- The Minister will facilitate to establish new flights, especially for Southern Myanmar where we acknowledge that we lack international connections. However, we do not think that we should have a full-fledged open sky as we want to favour quality over quantity.
How about Bed and Breakfast or Guest Houses run by locals? The previous Minister was not in favour of letting local people to develop homestays…
Z.M.A.- We generally look for quality tourism. Which means for example to avoid having very low hotel prices to still attract high quality travellers. We then pay a close look to the evolution of the hotel market, especially in secondary cities or popular tourism destinations. We for example saw that the multiplication of hotels along Inlay Lake threatens now the traditional life of locals. We will then not allow any more hotels along the lake as we think that we already reached the breaking point in tourism development. Regarding B&B or homestays, we fear that it could come to a clash between local culture and international travellers’ behaviour. We already saw in neighbouring countries how an uncontrolled development of guest houses could generate with the emergence of communities’ problems. We however launched a pilot project for some Bed & Breakfast units in Taunggyi township, the capital city of Shan State.