COMMITTED TO RESPONSIBLE TOURISM

In June and July 2012 the researchers, Dr. Andrea Valentin and U Khaing Oo Swe, conducted interviews and focus groups with more than 350 people at all levels throughout the major tourist destinations of Myanmar. The aim was to examine what Myanmar tourism stakeholders feel should be communicated to tourists in order to minimise conflicts in the future.

From Yangon, to Bagan, Mandalay, Kyaing Tong and Nyaung Shwe, the researchers interviewed tri-shaw and horse-cart drivers, ethnic minority villagers, tour guides, handicraft providers, artists, hoteliers, technical experts, tour operators, restaurant owners, NGOs, embassies, trade associations and travel agents. Then the results were presented anonymously to representatives of 17 Ministries related to tourism in Naypyitaw. After healthy debates and discussions, the final 30 guidelines were confirmed and approved by the Ministries.

Next the cartoon artists were approached. As the aim of this project was to include a very wide range of stakeholders, including the artists, five very different Myanmar cartoon artists were approached. Ranging from former soldier to political activist living in exile, we felt very lucky to be working with the final five very talented Myanmar cartoonists, who were delighted to illustrate the guidelines. The cartoonists were enthusiastic and agreed to participate in this unique project, showing that a diverse range of people can actually work together when all have a common aim: to minimize the negative impacts of tourism. The value of this project should therefore not be underestimated, not only in creating visitor awareness, but also in the facilitation of cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders who have never worked together before.

In September 2012 the cartoons were presented to the 17 participating Ministries again, and after another day of healthy debate, all gave their approval. The official launch of the Dos and Don'ts for tourists booklets and posters coincided with the launch of the Hanns Seidel Foundation's Office in Yangon, on 23rd October 2012. Right from the beginning, various participating organizations and businesses pledged their support to distribute the tourism cartoons, making this a project that underlines the shared vision of Myanmar tourism stakeholders: to use tourism to make Myanmar a better place to visit and a better place to live in.