Ecotourism in Myanmar is set to receive a boost when the country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT), Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF), and Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF) will finalize the formulation of the Ecotourism Policy and Management Strategy for protected areas in the near future.
“It will be a policy with a core strategy to ensure conservation of our protected areas for future generations,” said U Htay Aung, the Union Minister of Hotels and Tourism, at the first national consultation workshop organised to garner information and suggestions from a wide variety of stakeholders. The consultation workshop was held on Wednesday 22 October 2014 by MOHT in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF).
Despite current access constraints and relatively low numbers of visitors, Myanmar has considerable potential to develop ecotourism in and around its protected areas network.
“Ecotourism will strengthen the relationship between tourism and protected area management by directing tourism-related revenue streams toward protected area management and conservation efforts,” said Dr Paul Rogers, Tourism Consultant to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
The Director of the Department of Forestry, U Win Naing Thaw, emphasized that one of the key criteria for Myanmar is to develop awareness and understanding of ecotourism and align terminologies in Myanmar language. “More liberalized measures are underway for ecotourism activities to be developed in the buffer zones of protected areas,” he said.
The combined efforts of MOECAF, MOHT, and other key stakeholders aim to ensure that tourism in protected areas will support biodiversity, conservation, community-based income generation, and strengthen the management of protected areas. ICIMOD is providing technical support to facilitate this process. Ecotourism in Myanmar will also contribute to global climate change mitigation strategies.
ICIMOD’s Tourism Specialist Marjorie van Strien drew attention to the importance of policy alignment and collaboration between key ministries, as well as the states and regions, and highlighted that an inter-governmental Ecotourism Task Force has been established to draw upon the expertise of senior officials from 15 ministerial departments.
A broader consultation process was initiated in May this year to build awareness and gain inputs from a wide variety of stakeholders. Consultation sessions have been held in Putao, Natmataung, Lampi, Mandalay, and Yangon, and the initial results of these consultations have been compiled for further discussion at the national level.
Concluding the workshop, Director U Thin Thwin emphasized the need to raise further awareness of the planning process underway. He also acknowledged that it will take time for all sectors of Government, business, and civil society to understand the significance of this work and its specific focus on strengthening biodiversity conservation in and around Myanmar’s protected areas.