MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Norway will help Myanmar cope with an exploding tourism sector with a $225,000 grant designed to generate a sustainable tourism master plan.
"Myanmar is undergoing a period of dramatic change, and the skyrocketing number of tourists visiting the country is already putting existing tourism infrastructure under enormous strain," said Putu Kamayana, Head of ADB's Extended Mission in Myanmar. "To ensure benefits of the burgeoning tourism industry are sustainable and extend to more of Myanmar's people, the country needs a comprehensive plan that respects culture and the environment."
International visitor arrivals were up by more than 25% in 2011, and the annual number of visitors is expected to top the 1 million mark in 2012, generating an estimated $390 million in annual foreign exchange and supporting about 50,000 jobs.
"Greater contact with the rest of the world would have a positive effect on a country that had been closed for a long time," said Katja Nordgaard, Norway's Ambassador to Myanmar. "Also, the tourism sector holds a great potential for providing jobs to many people more rapidly than in many other sectors, but as the same time, great damage can be done if developments take place in an uncoordinated manner. So when the Myanmar Government asked Norway to assist in the development of a master plan to develop their tourism sector in a sustainable manner, we were happy to say yes and pleased to establish a cooperation project with ADB to provide the technical assistance."
Plans to enhance connectivity to major markets, improve the investment climate, expand air and hotel services, and introduce visas on arrival and electronic visas for tourists all point to an even faster rate of expansion in the future.
At the same time, existing tour operators and hotels are already overwhelmed, reporting room shortages and a lack of skilled workers. The rapid influx of visitors to pristine natural sites such as Inle Lake is straining the environment, raising fears of pollution and threats to wildlife.
The grant will pay for a sector assessment to examine Myanmar's tourist assets and liabilities, visitor traffic, infrastructure and human resource needs, existing laws and policies, and the role of private sector organizations. It will also look into the cultural and environmental impacts of tourism, and recommend new policies and investments to ensure the industry's expansion is sustainable, with the benefits equitably shared.
The assessment will be carried out by Myanmar's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, in conjunction with other government departments, the private sector, civil society and development partners, and will lead to a master plan that includes short term remedial actions for problem areas, as well as a longer-term development strategy. The master plan will be aligned to both national development plans and the tourism sector strategies of ASEAN and the Greater Mekong Subregion.
The project will be carried out over nine months, with completion in 2013. The grant, provided by the Government of Norway, will be administered by ADB.