Aiming to bring together tourism businesses and community-based groups, the fourth National Conference on Communities and Tourism will be held in Loikaw, Kayah State from June 6 to June 8. The seminar is organised by the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), Myanmar Responsible Tourism Institute, and International Trade Center in cooperation with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the state government.
Community-based tourism is included in the “to do-list for tourism” by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has promoted it based on the potential for this approach to enable tourists to learn more about the country’s culture and traditions as well as boost the livelihood of rural people.
Myanmar received over 3.55 million foreign tourists last year, a 3.15 percent increase over the 3.44 million in 2017, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The industry had good potential for growth before the 2017 humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine shattered all expectations of the ministry and tourism stakeholders.
This year’s theme of the conference is “Decentralisation, Destination and Development”, mirroring the new Tourism Law which gives state and regional governments the power to build an enabling environment for responsible investment in tourism in their region and destination management.
Under the 2018 Tourism Law, the responsibility of tourism planning and permitting has been delegated to the state and regional governments, said Achim Munz, Resident Representative of Hanns Seidel Foundation.
Local communities and government can cooperate to advertise and manage their region, ensuring sustainable development, he added.
The conference will share experiences on how to carry out active local destination management, a crucial element for environmental and cultural conservation and attracting visitors, said Mr Munz.
By utilising destination management and marketing, which include conferences and events such as food and cultural festivals and fun-runs, the host destination can increase their branding and attract more visitors and revenue.
“Whenever we hold these conferences, we’re keen to raise the profile of the host location, and maximise the income for local businesses,” said MCRB director Vicky Bowman, including hotels, restaurants, community and cultural tours, souvenir sellers and taxi drivers.
“We encourage participants to stay on or arrive early, and enjoy what Loikaw and Kayah State has to offer at the start of the ‘green season’.” She expects this conference alone to inject at least US$50,000 into the local economy, because of 200 visitors and 100 local participants.