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Burma Debate: 2 Articles on Tourism
- Subject: Burma Debate: 2 Articles on Tourism
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- Date: Tue, 02 Jan 1996 06:12:00
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Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 06:12:13 -0800
Subject: Burma Debate: 2 Articles on Tourism in Burma
BURMA DEBATE: VIEWPOINTS ON TOURISM
AUNG SAN SUU KYI: INTERVIEW ON TOURISM
U KHIN MAUNG KYI: SHOULD BURMA RECONSIDER ITS TOURISM POLICY?
BurmaNet Editor's Note: The following two articles were printed in the
November/December 1995 issue of Burma Debate. They have already been
posted on burmanet-l, but they are reposted here with the spelling errors
having been corrected.
BURMA DEBATE: AUNG SAN SUU KYI ON TOURISM
The following excerpts are from a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi
and foreign journalists in Rangoon on November 17, 1995. The conversation
was taped and transcribed for Burma Debate.
PRESS ~ My question has to do with tourism and "Visit Myanmar Year - 1996."
The government has been making a great deal of effort to attract tourists
and foreign investment. In fact, foreign investment and tourism are related
industries... in the country right now. The people I've been speaking to in
the north say that it's a kind of double-edged sword because, of course,
they're aware that the money, the foreign currency, is strengthening the
government but they appreciate that they're actually getting the "trickle
AUNG SAN SUU KYI ~ There is another aspect to that as well. It is forced
labor that has been imposed on the people in order to make the place as it
were, "respectable," in quotes, for the tourists. And that is a matter of
great concern, because people are made to build roads, build bridges and,
in many towns, people are made to replace their wooden or bamboo fences
with brick walls. This is in order to impress tourists. And there are some
places where they are even made to replace the wooden fronts of their
houses with brick facades if they could not afford to rebuild the whole
house in brick. This means a lot of hardship for the people, and I doubt
that any of those people who have to contribute labor or who have to spend
a lot of money, between their walls and houses, really get anything back
from the tourist industry.
PRESS ~ So the NLD [National League for Democracy] basically would say to
tourists, "Stay away?"
ASSK ~ Well, we think it is too early for either tourists or investment or
aid to come pouring into Burma. We would like to see that these things are
conditional on genuine progress towards democratization.
PRESS ~ What are the kinds of conditions the government would have
to fulfill before this international boycott of the country can be lifted
and aid and business and tourism should pour in?
ASSK ~ Well, they should show respect for the [United Nations] General
Assembly resolution. The General Assembly resolution of 1994 spells out
what is necessary before it can be seen that Burma is really on the road to
democratization. So, I think the clauses of that resolution should be
implemented before we can take it that the government is really on the road
PRESS ~ But I think that some tourists are coming, and I saw in Loikaw just
exactly [the thingsl you have explained. .. but you have to know, when I'm
a visitor here I don't see as much as I expected. Aren't you concerned that
the people who are coming here get the wrong idea and say well, the press
is wrong or something like that?
ASSK ~ Well, if they get the wrong idea, then, somebody should put them
right because tourists don't get anywhere... for example, where have you
been in Rangoon?
PRESS . The suburbs, outside. . .
ASSK ~ And where else?
PRESS ~ Just across the river. I rode down to the townships where people
were displaced a few years ago...
ASSK ~ Yes, but a lot of people don't go there. When tourists come here
they go to the Shwedagon Pagoda... they go to the pagoda at Pegu. Mind you,
if you go to Pegu by car you will see the roads are very bad. But [the
tourists] live in hotels, they go around in airconditioned taxis, they
don't see anything of what is going on in the country. They know nothing of
the situation of people in the rural areas, [who] are the backbone of the
country. Eighty percent of our people live in the countryside. And it's
whether or not they are well off which decides whether the country is
developing or not. We, the NLD, make a point of saying that real
development in a country must be measured by the standards of health and
education; and I think you can find data, independent data which has
nothing to do with us; United Nations data, which will show that government
spending on health and education has not gone up. As I understand it, in
the 1993 UN Human Development Report, the government was spending 150
times on defense what it was spending on health and education. And in the 1994
report it had gone up 222 times. So, we cannot see that there is development.
Apart from that, UNICEF data shows that the dropout rate at the primary school
level is rising in the country, so that certainly does not show development, especially
as UNICEF thinks... UNICEF comes to the conclusion that the reason
why children are dropping out of school is because the families are getting
poorer and this is the great majority of our people.
PRESS - Do you see anytthing in alternative tourism, that is, small
groups who are informed. . . ?
ASSK ~ Well, I think that visitors to the country can be useful, depending
on what they do, or how they go about it. But I think also, tourists have
to be careful not to deceive themselves; if they want to see the country,
they can find all sorts of excuses for doing so. But what they have to
understand is how far their visits really go to help the people. You go a
long way towards deceiving yourself. You can talk about 'trickle down'
effect, but sometimes the trickle down effect is exactly that, a mere
trickle, which dissipates before it gets to where it's required.
PRESS - There have been the reports in the Western press about the issue
of forced labor. . . do you have the feeling that it's gotten worse. . .
since the beginning of the year?
ASSK - Well, certainly, a lot of forced labor is in the interest of
attracting tourists. It's... one could say, it's this "Visit Myanmar Year"
which is responsible for a lot of forced labor because it's for roads and
bridges, as I said earlier, for building up the facades that will look
impressive to tourists.
PRESS ~ Has the situation worsened since the beginning of the year?
ASSK - It's going on, I mean, the same projects are going on. So there
certainly has been no let-up on preparations for welcoming, in quotes, "the
PRESS - When you say forced labor, just to clarify, you mean suggesting that
people donate their time for. . . ?
ASSK Well, maybe it's not suggesting. Telling them to donate their time, if
they cannot give the time they have to donate money instead. Only last week
we were informed that in Hlaing Tharyar, which is one of the satellite
townships, they were being asked to labor for a new road or perhaps for
rebuilding an old road. And those families... those households which cannot
provide labor have to give 650 kyats each. That's a lot for people who
don't have money, you know, who barely have enough to live on.
PRESS - I've heard that the new railway line that's being built between
Nyaung-U and Myin-Gyan, all the way to Bagan, that there's forced labor
being used on that railway, very specifically as a tourist project. Do you
have any details on that?
ASSK ~ No, we've just heard what you have. I think the same conditions
apply there as anywhere else in Burma where there's forced labor. If you
can't supply labor you have to supply money instead. And lots of people
can't afford money. But then, sometimes people have their own work to do.
If they are farmers they have their own land to tend to, and in order that
they may tend to their land, they have to give money instead. And that of
course is very difficult. It means that sometimes they run into debt
because they've got to borrow the money to pay towards forced labor or
voluntary labor, or whatever they like to call it, in order that they might
be free to work their own land, because that's their livelihood.
PRESS - If tourists do come, what would you tell them to do? What would be
the picture of Burma you'd like them to see?
ASSK - I think we would be much more clearcut in our policies. If we think
there is reason for us to say to the tourist, "Please don't come," we shall
PRESS ~ But say they do come. What would you say if they just get to see
the Shwedagon, Pagan. . . they don't really understand what is going on...
ASSK - Well then, we'll have to ask somebody to bring out an alternative
guide to Burma. [Editor's note: See Media Resources, p. 34 of Burma Debate
- there is an alternative guide, produced by the Burma Action Group in England]
PRESS ~ Are you worried about the cultural effects tourism will have on society?
ASSK ~ That is connected to the political and economic situation, which
will affect and influence the social attitudes of the people. I think if
you want a people to preserve their culture, you've got to make them feel
proud of themselves. You've got to make them feel that they can hold their
heads up in the world. If people do not have confidence in themselves, they
will lose their culture because they will think other people are better. If
they're poorer, if they have to depend on foreigners for a little trickle
of whatever is going in, then they will lose confidence with themselves. If
they lose confidence with themselves, that means they will no longer value
their own culture. The reason why a lot of young people are taking to
wearing foreign clothes is because they think that's trendy and they think
that shows that they're affluent. It's a sign of a lack of confidence in
themselves and in their own country and in their own culture. You cannot
preserve a culture by fiat. The people have to feel that their culture is
valuable, that it's worth preserving. If they do not feel it's worth
preserving, no amount of laws is going to make them preserve it. It will
get eroded away in no time at all.
PRESS ~ Is there no positive side to tourism?
ASSK ~ Of course there is a positive side to everything, provided it's
handled in the right way. Tourists can open up the world to the people of
Burma just as the people of Burma can open up the eyes of tourists to the
situation in their own country if they're interested in looking. But if
the people of Burma simply come to see tourists as a source of ready
money... then I do not know how much the tourist will be able to help the
Burmese people, apart from scattering a few dollars around.
PRESS . Some things about Mandalay. . . I went on the boat to Mingun as a
tourist and saw that there are plots of land cleared on the bank. . .
another form of relocation. What are they going to do there? Is it another
hotel site? It looks like the worst of both systems, of a nationalized
system and a free economy....
ASSK ~ Well, one hopes there is a method to the madness. They seem to be
clearing land right, left and center and I think in some cases they want to
put up hotels, in other areas they seem to want to turn farming land into
settlements, new settlements, which means they bring out people from the
cities and settle them on those lands. Whereas in those city areas that are
cleared, they put up hotels and department stores. It all seems to come
back to hotels in the end.
PRESS ~ But about Mandalay specifically, do you have any information...
about the Irrawaddy river bank?
ASSK - Yes, I think the Irrawaddy river bank has been cleared away for the
sake of the tourist so it all looks very nice and clean.
PRESS ~ Back to forced labor, I just wanted to get your response to a
comment I got from the government, which said that they weren't forcing people,
that foreigners didn't understand this labor thing because it was the Buddhist way,
that people wanted to work because they were gaining merit.
ASSK - I've never heard that it was the Buddhist way that if [people] were
not prepared to work, they had to give money instead. That does not seem a
very Buddhist way to me.
U KHIN MAUNG KYI: SHOULD BURMA RECONSIDER ITS TOURISM POLICY?
printed in BURMA DEBATE 11, NOV/DEC 1995
This article, which was translated from Burmese, was origirally
submitted to the Economic Magazine, a Burrnese periodical to which the
author had previously been a contributor. Though no direct or indirect
criticism was leveled against the SLORC or the military as such, the
article was banned by the Burmese authorities from publication.
Since the 1970s, many underdeveloped countries have regarded tourism as a
substantial and rapid foreign exchange earner. Frequently, however, it has
a fallen far short of expectations. This article examines whether tourism
truly can be an engine for economic growth and what benefits it can bring
to a country. It also suggests a policy for Burma that will minimize
tourism's negative effects.
The SLORC has announced a "Visit Myanmar Year - 1996" with the aim of
attracting more visitors to Burma. In the last year, tourist arrivals have
increased, but the figure in 1994 was only 47,230, and current estimates
suggest it may be under 70,000 this year. Furthermore, tourist arrivals are
If the bulk of the targeted 500,000 visitors arrive in the November-February cool
season, there will be a shortage of accommodations and other tyyes of infrastructure.
A ten-fold increase in visitors is a challenge in itself; but one which this article will
not address. Instead, it will concentrate on the objectives, benefits and guidelines for
a tourism policy.
Earning foreign exchange is essential in the initial stages of economic
growth. Most underdeveloped countries thus hope that tourism will generate
substantial foreign exchange earnings. They mistakenly believe that
construction of hotels and tourism infrastructure, rather than development
of industry, will lead to an influx of dollars, that foreign companies will
transfer technology in the form of skills associated with tourism, that
local handicraft manufacturers will benefit by selling their goods to
tourists, and that tourism in general will generate economic growth.
These are the perceived benefits of tourism that Burma, too, hopes to reap.
Many developing countries have trod the same path, including those in the
Carribbean, Latin America and countries in Asia such as Hong Kong,
Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Hong Kong and Singapore have
benefited by producing consumer goods for tourists, selling themselves as
transit points, serving as hubs for tour and airline companies and as major
centers for shopping.
But others have not been so successful. The first fruits of tourism may
have appeared to increase incomes, however, the negative impact of tourism
predominated in the long run. Burma could learn from the experience of
A RAPID INFLUX OF FOREIGN EXCHANGE?
Many countries now realize that tourism is not the dollar milk-cow they
hoped it would be. Tourism is a capital-intensive industry. Hotels need
expensive fittings, equipment and air-conditioners. Modern roads and
comfortable salon cars cost money. Expatriate managers expect dollar
salaries. Even food and toilet tissue must be imported.
At this point, some might argue "Oh, but the foreign companies will pay."
They will also then offset their capital expenses against profits. When
calculating the net foreign currency income, money spent to promote and
support tourism must be taken into account. The World Tourism Organization
(WTO) estimates that for every dollar spent by a visitor, forty to
seventy-five cents leaves the country.
In general, developed countries, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and
the United States, are the source of both travellers and travel agencies.
They also provide the aircraft or operate airlines that bring the visitors,
and the consumer goods that tourists make use of during their stay.
Consequently, the countries that benefit most in foreign currency terms
from tourism are the ones that send the tourists.
Public money needs to be spent to cater to tourists; namely, on building
and upgrading physical and social infrastructure, accommodations, parks and
observation towers. Spending that requires foreign currency and does not
benefit the country as a whole must be regarded as part of the costs of
tourism. On the other hand, the benefit side of the balance sheet is
augmented by purchases of local handicrafts and souvenirs. But the low cost
of these generally shoddy products means that the amount of money that
remains in the country is negligible in comparison to what goes out.
The WTO has studied the costs and benefits of tourism in several countries
and found that in almost half of them, the foreign currency balance sheet
showed zero or negative balance. Successful tourism, like other industries,
depends on ensuring value-added within the country. In developed countries
such as Singapore, value-added is high because goods for tourists, such as
electrical items, food and drink, are manufactured domestically, whether
directly or under license. The less the domestic production, the greater
the need to import items to meet the needs of tourists. This is what
prevents countries like Burma and Sri Lanka from enjoying the benefits of
The second common misconception is that tourism creates local jobs. I
mentioned earlier that tourism is a capital-intensive industry. A world
class hotel at the cost of approximately 12.7 million US, will create 200
local jobs, mostly in unskilled occupations such as housekeepers, waiters
and bell-boys. But if this capital were invested in an electronics plant or
a garment factory, the capital/employment ratio would be much more
favorable. A survey of tourism in Sri Lanka found that the creation of a
single local job in tourism required an investment of $5,050. Comparable
figures for heavy industry and labor-intensive industries were $3,250 and
Furthermore, unlike manufacturing, most jobs created by tourism are
unskilled and seasonal. Rather than concentrating on tourism, countries
should encourage the establishment of export-oriented manufacturing
industries; thus providing year-round employment for a greater number of
Another myth is that foreign investment in tourism brings with it
technology transfer. New hotels do require skilled labor in the form of
managers, qualified cooks and professional tour organizers. But unless
investment agreements contain clauses stipulating the provision of training
for local staff and undertakings to promote local managers within a certain
time frame, few skills will be transferred. Tourism is fundamentally a
service industry performed by unskilled and seasonal labor. And the skills
it involves are not particularly transferable to other activities.
SUPPORT FOR LOCAL INDUSTRIES?
There is also the mistaken belief that tourism will boost sales and support
the local handicraft industry. Tourists may indeed buy local goods. But
prices reflect quality. To cater to the demand for cheap souvenirs, host
countries may even sell mass-produced imitations of local art, probably
imported from outside.
If local handicraft industries are left to fend for themselves and struggle
on with outdated equipment and lack of technical know-how, they will not be
in place to take advantage of tourism. For example, Burmese lacquerware is
of poor quality, both in terms of durability and design, in comparison to
the Japanese or Chinese products. Hand-woven Burmese textiles could be
exported, but only if their quality and design are improved. Training is
needed in both technology and marketing. The producers should be sent
abroad to familiarize themselves with the market and should have access to
loans to modernize their equipment.
WILL THE COUNTRY BENEFIT ECONOMICALLY?
Some hope that tourism will shore up the rest of the country's economy.
Industrial development generally involves the establishment of related
upstream and downstream industries. For example, the mining of iron ore,
foundries and casting are upstream industries that support the downstream
manufacturing of steel bars and cars. The same is true of the electronics
industry. Upstream processes include production of microchips and monitors;
downstream are the programmers and software developers. The processes are
interrelated and the development of each depends upon the other.
Tourism, on the other hand, has very few industries which depend on, or
are related to it. The tour operators, who are generally found in the
countries where the tourists originate, represent upstream activity. And
the downstream function of tourism ends with the provision of a service to
the visitor. So there are few related businesses. To conclude, while it
may generate foreign exchange and create jobs, tourism is a stand-alone
activity, unlikely to generate spin-off development of other industries.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF TOURISM
A genuine analysis of the benefits of tourism requires study of all the
costs, financial, social, cultural and environmental. When these are taken
into account, the benefits of tourism may well be minimal or even non-existent.
GOLDEN GOOSE OR HEN OUT OF HELL?
Tourism has no beneficial impact on social values. Pleasure or sex tourism
is a common occurrence in Southeast Asia and male tourists flock to Thailand
and the Philippines, drawn by the promise of sex with Asian girls. Tourism has
bolstered the illegal sex industry in these and many other destinations.
The complacent response that: "The sex industry is a by-product of economic
underdevelopment. It will disappear once the economy improves," ignores the
unforgiving devastation wreaked by AIDS through the vector of the illegal
sex industry. Once HIV infection is established in that segment of the
population, its eradication and cure may never be achieved. AIDS kills
thousands. The costs of lost economic contribution and medical treatment
will stunt the economic growth of the countries most affected. Entire
African countries already have been crippled by the disease.
There are those who believe that the sex industry is an inevitable,
necessary-and thus acceptable-by-product of tourism. However, the social
disruption caused by a growing illegal sex trade is very damaging for a
country, as well as for the young girls who, through poverty or naivete,
find themselves its victims.
The illegal sex industry has spread to tourist destinations beyond Thailand
and the Philippines. A recent survey of sex tourism by the British magazine
Charity found that sex tourism now takes place in Sri Lanka and the poor
countries of Latin America. As a result, the fear of AIDS has boosted child
prostitution, as tourists look to younger and younger children for sex. It
is estimated that 200,000 Nepalese girls have been sold into prostitution
in India and girls as young as six years old have been forced into the sex
tourism industry in Sri Lanka where there are an estimated 15,000 child
prostitutes. Meanwhile, nearly 200,000 teenagers participate in the Thai
sex industry. According to Charity, sex tourists no longer come from a
single Asian country, but from America and across Europe. Sex tourism can
only be to the detriment of Burma and the Burmese people.
Of the tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, only Malaysia proscribes its
sex industry. Malaysia does not regard tourism as a development priority.
It bases its economic development on industry and agriculture. Tourism is
seen as an industry that merely supports other sectors.
DISTORTION OF CULTURAL VALUES
It was once hoped that tourism would stimulate mutual understanding between
nations and cultures. Instead, tourists arrive and undertake a short
program of sight-seeing and recreation in which inter-cultural understanding
takes a back seat. Rather, on experiencing the poverty of the host country, the
tourist may well return home with an attitude of condescension.
Foreigners on brief visits may actually contribute to the decay of the
country's social fabric. Local young people, ignorant of the world outside,
may be enticed to copy the visitors' behavior. Where the visitors behave
appropriately, this is not a problem. But the customs and behaviour of the
visitors may be very different from a country's own. Or worse, tourists may
behave in ways in which they would hesitate to behave at home, perhaps
because they perceive that they are among inferiors. For example, I have
seen European women walking naked on the beach at Phuket. Local youth may
be tempted to mimic the behavior of such tourists.
Tourism can destroy national culture in other ways. Burma should certainly
encourage tourists to visit historical attractions such as Pagan. But we
need to ensure that historical sites are maintained. Floods of visitors
will quickly damage the Thatbinnyu and Ananda Pagodas. Egypt, for example,
has found that the humid breath of thousands of tourists is causing the
tombs of the Pharaohs to discolor and crack. Our pagodas could suffer the
same fate, particularly as they were not built to be as solid as the pyramids.
A recent conference in Thailand focused on how to prevent and remedy such
occurrences. Burma should quickly review ways to handle these problems, to
look at the capacity of the buildings and discuss how damage can be repaired.
People in Burma already know that tourists like to buy antiques. Many
ancient pagodas and monasteries have been destroyed in the pursuit of such
treasures and antiques are being carted over to Thailand in growing numbers
to meet the demands of tourists.
We can expect this to continue if tourism takes off in Burma. Indonesia,
India and Thailand have lost many treasures in this way. Burma must
consider how to prevent further losses.
Some people believe that selling local works of art to tourists helps
promote our artistic culture. I disagree. Such is the gap between the views
of East and West that foreigners, particularly if they lack knowledge of
our culture, are rarely able to appreciate the value of local art. They may
critique it by the norms of their own cultures, with the result that the
local artist may even succumb to producing the sort of garbage that tourists
want to buy. Thus our national culture is damaged. In Bali, the dollar-crazed
locals have gone so far as to sell out their religion to tourism. Despite their
beliefs, they now hold religious ceremonies out of season when this earns
them money-a lesson in the bastardisation of culture by international tourism.
Gambling and prostitution are controlled in many countries. Where these are
officially sanctioned in order to earn foreign exchange, the authorities
tend to get sucked into corruption and lawlessness. Bribery and drugs
attract organised crime. Criminal tentacles may extend to encircle
political life until the whole of government and the bureaucracy is
corrupted. Such a situation can be seen with the drug cartels in Colombia,
and in the booming sex industry in the Philippines under Marcos.
TOURISM WITHOUT TEARS
I may appear unduly pessimistic, and seem to imply that tourism can only
damage and not benefit the country. But it should be clear that pursuing
tourism solely as a foreign exchange earner is a non-starter.
A free market economy was introduced in Burma five years ago. Since then,
only a small proportion of the people have benefited. But the majority
should also benefit. Burma should encourage labor-intensive and small
industries. Indonesia has raised the living standard of its people over the
past decade, not through oil, but through light industry and the
manufacture of garments, electronics and shoes.
Burma, too, should establish labor-intensive industries that will both
assist the majority and add value within the country. To do this, it needs
a management environment and basic infrastructure that will persuade
foreign companies to invest. This is the only option. Beyond that, Burma
needs to broaden her skills base.
I am not arguing for a halt to the incipient tourism industry in Burma,
merely that we should inject a sense of proportion into the debate, and
consider what controls may be necessary.
We should begin with a cost-benefit analysis, and accept that tourism will
never be a dollar milk-cow. Secondly, we should examine the social impact
of every tourism project, taking into account both private and public costs
and benefits. If public costs exceed private benefits, we need to calculate
how to make tourism pay the balance. Our motto should be: "Make tourism
pay." The government has already rightly taken a step in this direction by
demanding that every tourist change $300 on entry.' In addition, fees
should be levied on tourists for the use, upgrading and maintenance of
public utilities, cultural and environmental assets (such as forest
reserves), and social and physical infrastructure, particularly where the
state incurs costs in making them available to tourists.
Thirdly, a policy should be developed that clearly identifies the types of
tourism and tourists to be encouraged. There are five basic categories:
1. Business tourists
2. Pleasure, or sex tourists
3. Recreational tourists
5. Culture tourists
Business tourism will depend on economic development in Burma. It should be
encouraged and efforts made to provide business visitors with services such
as secretarial support and office systems. On the other hand, a policy
decision should be taken to discourage pleasure/sex tourism and appropriate
laws should be enacted. The problem with recreational tourism is that the
distinction between it and pleasure tourism can be very slim. Furthermore,
it requires substantial injections of capital to create the necessary
beaches, luxury hotels and parks. Apart from Sandoway (Ngapali) and
Maungmagan (Tenasserim Division), Burma lacks the wide shallow beaches of
Bali and Phuket, which can quickly be developed. And unless such facilities
are accessible to locals as well, their development will not be
On the other hand, eco-tourism and cultural tourism should be encouraged,
as they stand strong chances for success. Control needs to be exerted to
ensure that resources, whether tigers or pagodas, are not damaged, and
costs are fully taken into account in assessing overall cost-benefit.
Such analyses should always take into account the benefits which accrue to
the majority and to the country as a whole. I have already mentioned that
the countries that demonstrate greatest benefit and enjoy value-added are
those that send visitors. This suggests that Burma should plan how best to
maximize its share of foreign exchange. I suggest that one way to do this
is to establish tour operators overseas and deal directly with those
wanting to visit Burma as ecotourists or culture tourists.
Finally, after discussions with tourism practitioners within and outside
the country, Burma needs to adopt a national policy for tourism which takes
the above issues into account and incorporates a set of objectives and
'do's and don'ts.'
AN OASIS OR MIRACLE?
The impact of international tourism can be found from the Caribbean to the
Pacific. Tourism has been promoted in many, many countries with great
fanfare, but without thoughtful preparation. It can turn sour-skyscraper
hotels sitting next to squatter camps. We should not recreate the same
mistakes in Burma.
I hope this article will help Burma pursue tourism for maximum benefit and
minimum cost, and ensure that she does not mistake a mirage for an oasis.
Khin Maung Kyi, educated in Business Administration at Harvard and Cornell
Universities, is a business consultant residing in Singapore. He
was formerly a professor at Rangoon Institute of Economics, the University
Pertanian, Malaysia, and the National University of Singapore.
TRANSLATION BY: Sein Kyaw Hlaing.
1. All foreign visitors are required to transfer US$30 or the equivalent
into Foreign Exchange Certificates. These FECs can be used to pay for
transport and accommodations or exchanged on the open market for kyats at
a rate of approximately $1= 6 kyats. Private citizens can deposit FECs
into dollar bank acounts in Burma. The government changes 10% of the
deposit into kyats at the official rate and therefore effectively benefits
at the rate of at least $300 per visitor.
1. Wood, Robert F.., "Tourism and Under-development in Southeast Asia",
Journal of Contenlrorary Asia, vol.9 no.3, 1979. P.281
2. ibid, P279
3. Melldis, E..L., The Economic, Social and Cultural Impact of
Tourism in Sri Lanka, CWF, Columbo, 1981.