Myanmar Looks to Ecotourism for Sustainable Development

Tourism in Myanmar is booming. In 2011, the country had less than 1 million visitors; in 2015 it had 4.6 million visitors, who spent $2.2 billion during their stay.

With its mix of culture, history, and natural beauty, Myanmar has quickly become one of Asia’s top emerging tourist destinations. To get the most out of tourism’s contribution to socioeconomic development, the government is putting in place policies and building and upgrading infrastructure to promote sustainable tourism growth.

Ecotourism has played only a small role in Myanmar’s tourism boom. Even so, the country’s Tourism Master Plan, 2013–2020 recognizes its considerable potential. If properly planned, ecotourism should not only help spur economic growth but also contribute to nature conservation and provide livelihood benefits to local communities.

In 2014 and 2015, the CEP mobilized a team of experts to support the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to develop an ecotourism strategy. We assessed the state of conservation and tourism in 22 protected areas designated as having ecotourism potential.

The findings identified both risks and opportunities. For example, potential risks of tourism to cultural practices or endangered biodiversity, and opportunities such as features of interest to tourists and income generation activities for local livelihoods. The CEP’s assessment featured prominently in Myanmar’s Ecotourism Policy and Protected Area Management Strategy, 2015–2025.

“Visitors have been keen to experience Myanmar’s world renowned cities and unique, unspoiled cultural heritage. Accompanying this growth is a new demand, especially from discerning international travellers, to explore Myanmar’s natural heritage in a way that is sustainable and aligned to principles of green growth.”
--U Htay Aung, former Union Minister, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar

Publish Date: 30th March 2018

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