Magazine article International Trade Forum

Off the Beaten Track in Myanmar: In Myanmar's Kayah State, the International Trade Centre Is Helping to Strengthen a Nascent Tourism Sector

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Off the Beaten Track in Myanmar: In Myanmar's Kayah State, the International Trade Centre Is Helping to Strengthen a Nascent Tourism Sector

Article excerpt

One of the biggest sustainability challenges faced by a development project is how to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to stakeholders in the field so that initiatives can be continued and replicated post-project. Another challenge, particularly in post-conflict situations, is how to nurture trust.

An integrated approach to these two challenges has been piloted by the International Trade Centre's (ITC) 'NTF III Inclusive Tourism Focusing on Kayah State' project in Myanmar through a Training of Trainers (ToT) process in cultural tourism product development. In Kayah state, ITC has been working alongside government officers, local tourism businesses and communities for over two years to develop creative and community-based tours.

As a result of this work, visitors to Kayah have new opportunities to experience its delete mosaic of authentic cultural expressions and pristine natural environment.

HANDS-ON TOURISM

For example, in the state capital Loikaw visitors can try their hands at making traditional Kayah sausage. They can also explore local villages accompanied by trained community guides. In Hta Nee La Leh village, options for a community-based tour include visiting ancient animist sites, meeting musicians who still play traditional bamboo instruments, enjoying an oxcart ride to a lotus pond and tasting a Kayah barbecue in a local home or on the banks of the Seven Lakes. In Pan Pet village, visitors can enjoy an interpretive trek in forested hills, encounter the fabled long-neck women, and meet local artisans in their homes to learn textiles and bamboo weaving techniques.

To ensure that tourists enjoy the local food and cherish their visit, services providers were trained and coached to improve hygiene conditions and handling food safety. More than 300 food market vendors and two bottled water companies were trained to sustainability and hygiene measures. As part of the effort, a group of 10 young professionals were formed to further coach (against a small service fee) tour operators following the completion of the project.

Underpinning these activities is a robust, participatory process that includes community consultations; awareness raising; identifying special elements of local life which villagers feel proud and comfortable to share with guests. Trainings in hospitality, food hygiene, tour guiding skills, accounting and taking bookings are also available.

FIELD TRAINING

Learning from two decades of previous experiences in the region, ITC's team engaged proactively with an emerging sector of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) ground-handlers in Loikaw, inviting managers and staff to visit the communities and participate in field training in partnership with the local government. This on-the-job training educated the ground-handlers and government representatives on how creative and community-based tours work while crafting trusting relationships among themselves, community members and the government, leading to better business and interpersonal relationships.

Community members have already welcomed over 1,500 visitors on new tours since the start of the project, with an increase of international tourists arrivals in Kayah of about 140%. According to Kayah state tourism operators, spending in the state had almost doubled since September 2014. New SME ground-handlers in Loikaw are now partners with over 30 professional, national-level tour operators.

Following the success of cultural tourism development in Hta Nee Le Leh and Pan Pet villages, ITC started working with two other villages in Kayah state, Htay Kho and Daw Ta Ma Gyi. …

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