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Can Myanmar Begin the Journey to Sustainable and Quality Tourism?

The Myanmar Tourism SWIA puts detailed information on potential impacts of the sector into the public domain for uptake and use by a wide range of audiences.
The Myanmar Tourism SWIA puts detailed information on potential impacts of the sector into the public domain for uptake and use by a wide range of audiences.

The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business today published a sector-wide impact assessment (SWIA) on tourism which highlights some of the positive and negative impacts tourism can have on the country, and the choices to be made.

Executive Summary and Recommendations
Document PDF, 4081 downloads, ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ 20, 2015
Executive Summary and Recommendations (Burmese)
Document PDF, 3397 downloads, ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ 23, 2015
Myanmar Tourism Sector-Wide Impact Assessement (complete)
Document PDF, 7688 downloads, ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ 21, 2015

This second sector-wide impact assessment by MCRB, following on from the SWIA on oil and gas highlights a number of actual and potential impacts of tourism development. Some of Myanmar’s flagship sites such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaiktiyo, are already under environmental and social pressure from the effects of tourism, which is affecting the livelihoods of local inhabitants and long-term viability of these places as tourism destinations.    The SWIA makes recommendations to government, businesses, civil society groups, tourists and other stakeholders intended to increase positive impacts and reduce negative impacts.

Myanmar already has in place a number of government policies to encourage responsible tourism. However, a lack of capacity and resources means that implementation of these policies is incomplete. Launching the report, MCRB Director, Vicky Bowman, said:

At the moment, there’s too much focus on hard infrastructure and in particular, hotel construction. Myanmar needs to rein in the rush to create so-called ’hotel zones’, where land is compulsorily acquired for multiple hotels, often on environmentally sensitive sites. Our field research repeatedly showed that many of the negative impacts we found were associated with hotel zones. What is needed – as the government’s own Master Plan identified – is participatory destination management and a ‘zonal planning’ approach, which is not the same thing as establishing a ‘hotel zone’”.

The assessment also found that local communities were still not sufficiently engaged in decisions on tourism development. “Engagement, consultation and participation of stakeholders should form the basis of tourism development projects from the very start.  This is particularly important in ethnic minority and post-conflict areas where tourism businesses should take the time to understand the conflict and communal dynamics, and how local people would like to see the destination opened to tourists and benefits shared”, said Allan Jørgensen, from the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The SWIA highlights the significant job creation and poverty alleviation potential of tourism. It also highlights potential threats, drawing on experiences from the region such as Cambodia and Thailand.  For example, children are vulnerable to the impacts of tourism through phenomena such as ‘orphanage tourism’ and some types of ‘voluntourism’.  On this, and other issues, the SWIA identifies relevant international standards and initiatives, and highlights relevant good practices both in Myanmar and other countries.

Vicky Bowman commented:  “I know from 25 years of travelling in Myanmar that it has so many ecological and cultural assets, both tangible and intangible.  Myanmar people have told us they attach a high priority to protecting this environmental and cultural wealth. The country is lucky to still have choices. It can, of course, try to compete with Bali and Thailand to attract mass tourism. But if it does, it risks destroying the things that make its destinations different. Alternatively, Myanmar can harness tourism in support of the protection of its diverse cultures and ecosystems.  Those choices need to be made on the basis of participatory discussions at the local and national level. ”


About the Tourism Sector-Wide Impact Assessment (SWIA):

  • A bilingual English/Myanmar report with the executive summary and recommendations of the SWIA, and the full SWIA report (currently English language only) is available here
  • The SWIA is based on both desk-based and field-based research in six locations throughout the country which have already experienced tourism development. It includes an in-depth analysis of existing Myanmar legal frameworks and the legal and policy framework relevant to the tourism sector. The report also provides a background on the tourism sector in Myanmar, including the tourism value chain and sector-wide impacts tourism businesses and other actors have to manage. 
  • The SWIA draws on established environmental and social impact assessment methodologies, but applies a human rights lens. The Tourism SWIA and its methodology were developed in collaboration with MCRB’s founding organisations, the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB). In September 2014 a SWIA on Myanmar’s Oil and Gas sector was launched and future SWIAs on ICT and Agriculture are currently being underway.
  • The SWIA considers actual and potential impacts on three levels:
  • Sector level impacts that covers the aggregate impacts of the sector and paints the “bigger picture” of the interaction between the tourism sector and Myanmar society (Part 3), as well as tourism impacts in ethnic minority areas (Part 3.1);
  • Project level and cumulative impacts that cover eight areas of impacts at the project level and the cumulative levels: stakeholder engagement and grievance mechanisms; communities; land; labour; groups at risk; culture; security; and the environment (Part 4).
  • The SWIA highlights relevant international standards of responsible business conduct, particularly from the United Nations (UN), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as tourism-sector specific standards. The report makes recommendations on how these standards can be incorporated into policy-making and practice.
  • A summary of the recommendations to each of the main actors in Myanmar’s Tourism sector is included in Annex below.  The full set of these recommendations and suggestions for how they can be implemented are included in the full report (Part 5). 

About the authors

  • Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) is a Yangon-based initiative funded by the UK, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Ireland governments, based on a collaboration between the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the UK-based Institute for Human Rights and Business. The Centre was established in 2013 to provide an effective and legitimate platform for the creation of knowledge, capacity and dialogue concerning responsible business in Myanmar, based on local needs and international standards, which results in more responsible business practices. It is a neutral platform working with businesses, civil society and government.
  • The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) is Denmark’s independent National Human Rights Institution established in accordance with the UN Paris Principles, with a mandate to promote and protect human rights and equal treatment in Denmark and abroad. DIHR’s Human Rights and Business Department focuses on the role of the private sector in respecting human rights. By means of research, tools and partnerships in particular with corporate stakeholders, DIHR seeks to maximise the positive impact and minimise the negative impact of business on society at large. DIHR also supports NHRIs and other State actors to play their essential role in ensuring the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) is a global think tank on the relationship between business and internationally proclaimed human rights standards. IHRB works to shape policy, advance practice and strengthen accountability to ensure the activities of companies do not contribute to human rights abuses, and in fact lead to positive outcomes. IHRB prioritises its work through time-bound programmes that can have the greatest impact, leverage and catalytic effect focusing on countries in economic and political transition and business sectors that underpin others in relation to the flows of information, finance, workers and commodities.

For further information please contact:

(In Myanmar) MCRB:
Phyu Phyu Zin, Information and Communication Officer, 09799 667713

(Outside Myanmar) DIHR:
Tulika Bansal, Advisor Human Rights and Development, +31 617848301

Elin Wrzoncki, Senior Advisor Human Rights and Development, +45 3269 8984

To the Government of Myanmar

  1. Fully implement Strategic Programme 3 of the Tourism Master Plan, the Responsible Tourism Policy and the Policy on Community Involvement in Tourism
  2. Strengthen the regulatory and policy framework for social and environmental issues as it relates to the tourism sector
  3. Adopt better regulation for the tourism sector
  4. Build the capacity of policy, regulatory and inspection authorities, including at regional level
  5. Raise awareness of relevant regulatory and policy frameworks
  6. Increase transparency
  7. Adopt a zonal planning framework for existing and emerging tourist destinations and undertake Strategic Impact Assessments for large developments
  8. Further encourage the participation of, consultation with and the inclusion of local communities in tourism development
  9. Strengthen processes for judicial and non-judicial remedy

To Companies in the Tourism Sector

  1. Support the principles of the Tourism Master Plan and the government’s implementation of the aspects of that Plan which relate to responsible tourism
  2. Commit to applying international social, environmental and human rights standards and undertake due diligence in the business and its supply chain
  3. Practice enhanced human rights due diligence on particular issues
  4. Respect the rights of vulnerable groups, including children and people with disabilities
  5. Ensure the participation of communities in tourism development
  6. Create and support mechanisms that enable complaints and grievances to be addressed quickly and effectively
  7. Take collective action to address to environmental, social and human rights issues
  8. Strengthen the governance of the Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF) and its member organizations

To Institutional Investors

  1. Conduct enhanced due diligence on portfolio companies that are involved in the tourism sector in Myanmar.
  2. Engage with investee companies involved in the tourism sector in Myanmar to ensure that these companies meet or exceed international
  3. Urge companies doing business in the tourism sector in Myanmar to report robustly on how they manage risks and impacts associated with investments and operations in the country.

To Tourists

  1. Respect local Myanmar culture and traditions, the environment, and women’s and children’s rights
  2. Support the development of responsible tourism in Myanmar

To Civil Society

  1. Conduct capacity building activities with civil society, workers and communities
  2. Engage actively in EIA consultations related to tourism development projects and disclosure processes
  3. Advocate for the ratification of ILO Core Labour Conventions such as Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) and other ILO Conventions related to the tourism sector
  4. Advocate directly and through the media for tourism businesses in Myanmar to adopt appropriate tourism standards
  5. (For the media) Report on negative impacts on tourism and highlight ways in which these could be mitigated in line with national law and international standards.

To Development Partners/Home Governments

  1. Support the Government to implement Strategic Programme 3 of the Tourism Master Plan, the Responsible Tourism Policy and the Policy on Community Involvement in Tourism
  2. Support the strengthening of environmental, social and human rights policy and legal frameworks.
  3. Support implementation of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in Myanmar by international companies.
  4. Raise tourist awareness about how to avoid negative impacts of tourism, including through consular advice.

To the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

  1. Support the development of a National Action Plan on business and human rights, and include action points relevant to the tourism sector
  2. Advise on human rights aspects of tourism laws, regulations and guidelines
  3. Support those affected by tourism development projects in seeking legal redress
  4. Publicly report on the handling of complaints, investigations and follow up steps undertaken by the MNHRC and other institutions with regard to tourism development related grievances

To All Stakeholder Groups

  1. Establish an open platform for discussing human rights in tourism in Myanmar, including cumulative impacts

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