Responsible travel in Myanmar
In 2011, after decades of a tourism boycott to deny revenue and legitimacy to a brutal and corrupt military junta with an appalling human rights record, Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, is now well and truly open to tourists. But only a certain kind of traveller – those who journey responsibly.
The irresponsible tourist is not welcome in Myanmar. And rightly so. Whilst tourists were able to visit Myanmar prior to 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy made it clear that tourism was in fact not helping local people. Apart from the brutal clearances to make way for large and corrupt government-run hotels, simply to travel in Burma sent an inappropriate message of legitimacy to the regime. And the world listened.
And,when in 2011 the NLD released a statement to say that tourists are now welcome, the world listened again. The NLD made it very clear that they only welcomed respectful travellers who cared about their values.
“Whilst tourism could enhance the economic life of the peoples of the host country by creating new jobs, bringing in hard currency and raising the standard of living, it could also have negative consequences if environmental issues are ignored and the meeting of different cultures and societal values are not approached with sufficient sensitivity”.
National League for Democracy, Statement, May 2011
There was a clear cry to support those businesses and travel agencies who are engaged in ‘effective outreach programmes’ and ‘environmental conservation’ in Burma.
Panoramic Journeys was founded on such principles and we embraced the opportunity to take our guests to Myanmar. Ultimately what we want is for our travel experiences to have a positive impact on both the journey-maker and the people in our destinations and this is also true of our practices in Myanmar. All our responsible travel projects and endeavours in the former Burma focus on benefiting the local economy at the "family" level as much as possible.
As a given, we support projects that are make a tangible difference to people and environment through our Sustainable Project Fund but, at an operational level, we also ensure that the tourist dollar actually benefits ordinary Burmese people – from the family-run hotels we send our guests to, to the locally-run restaurants we encourage you to frequent.
And the fact is that we do attract a certain kind of like-minded traveller. A respectful, thoughtful traveller who wants to learn, understand, appreciate, and engage meaningfully with people and places.
And Burma, as a deeply spiritual place, relatively un-touched by tourism and western influence, attracts a certain kind of traveller. One who seeks transformative experiences and strives for deeper connections even if that is, at the simplest level, an appreciation of the extraordinary architectural splendour in ancient cities and near mind-splitting beauty of its beaches, lakes and forests.
Please read on to see what we do as part of travelling responsibly in Myanmar.
- We as a business chose the hotels that we stay in carefully and regularly check for ownership changes, prioritizing those owned by local families or individuals so they are direct recipients.
- We incorporate “Off the beaten track” places into our itineraries. Such regions are more difficult to reach, support the local economy but are vulnerable to last minute closures. We believe that this is a price that we and our clients pay in order to allow less visited areas to benefit from tourism.
- We try to avoid meals in big hotels and instead visit small family run restaurants.
- We inform our guests and give guidelines on how to engage with local people
- Visit handicraft places - buy from artisans and not private shops
- We avoid zoo like visits such a few of the monastery visits.
- We are working on checking the waste disposal at each of the hotels that we use.
- During our journeys, our guides and guests are encouraged to collect litter and dispose of it appropriately.
- We support the Save the Nature Tour Guide Community Group near Inle Lake.
- We are looking to support the communities at Inle lake who are now obliged to get their drinking water from distant sources because of the water not being consumable anymore.
- We are working on how to assist the weavers in Inle Lake with proper disposal of any chemical waste that they have.
As in our other destinations, we do not purport to be NGO workers or health specialists! We don’t want to double up with what is being done by others. Instead we identify individuals and small charities who are having a positive impact on the people of Burma.
- MYANMAR FOUNDATION - We are currently sponsoring a student through higher education with the assistance of the Myanmar Foundation. We recommend others interested in making a difference in Burma to do the same - and many of our guests do.
- The BENEVOLENT EYE SERVICE TRUST works to reduce the treatable portion of blindness in Myanmar by providing outreach charity eye care clinics and charity cataract surgery initiatives in rural areas. We have donated funds to try to reduce their wish list.