Tourism may be booming, but Burma is not yet fixed

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Despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest and the National League for Democracy calling for a re-introduction of responsible tourism in the country 3 years ago,’s newly released 2 minute travel guide to Burma argues that although the world has been let in, and responsible tourism companies have lifted their bans, Burma is not yet fixed.

Burma’s new-found popularity with adventurous tourists would perhaps suggest that the country’s problems are a thing of the past. Sadly this is not the case.

In May 2011, at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi, overturned its ban on Burma holidays. And in 2012 one of the site’s Burma holidays was third most booked, and in 2013 the most booked holiday on the site. Managing Director Justin Francis comments, “Burma’s new-found popularity with adventurous tourists would perhaps suggest that the country’s problems are a thing of the past. Sadly this is not the case.

“When lifted our boycott I urged the Burmese Government and newly formed Burmese Tourist Board to work with the NLD and local communities with an interest in tourism, to ensure that responsible tourism sets the agenda in the region.

“Although Burma is now open to the world, some problems are still there, and three years on it is just as important to ensure that revenues from tourism are reaching those in Burma who need it most, rather than supporting a non-democratically elected government.

“’s Burma holidays are all carefully screened to ensure they are companies and organisations who work to establish deep connections that benefit local communities and preserve cultures against the potential harms of tourism.”

Tourism must tread very carefully in Burma;’s 2 minute travel guide ( explains why:

  •     It does not bode well for tourism that it values highly the places where it has had the least impact. Burma is essentially an untouched, tourism clean slate and care must be taken to ensure the industry sets out on the right, sensitive and responsible foot.
  •     Burma still has a non-democratically elected government and human rights abuses continue. Tourists and tourism organisations should be aware and do all they can to ensure they are supporting the military junta as little as possible, but as all locally run guesthouses and restaurants etc pay taxes it is impossible not to fund the government in some way. Extra care therefore must be taken to ensure as much tourism money as possible ends up in local hands.
  •     Bad tourism practises will take hold quickly if unchecked. Already Kayan women, famed for their elongated neck, are migrating to popular Inle Lake to earn a living from tourism, where they are photographed in a form of human zoo.
  •     Even the most seasoned traveller will need to remind themselves that they are in a country unused to Western tourists, and the impact of an incorrectly calculated tip, a bare shoulder or refusal of food will be much greater than Burma’s more tourism-weary neighbours.
  •     It may be depicted as a pristine wilderness but deforestation is a huge problem in Burma. Responsibly run tourism projects can offer a sustainable alternative to logging and poaching. It is important these are set up carefully and are well supported.

Notes to editors:

About is the world's leading online travel agent for responsible holidays and a pioneer of responsible tourism. Started in 2001 with backing from Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop the site's mantra is 'travel like a local'. It sells holidays that are about more than just a brief stay somewhere - instead it is travel that offers a real connection with the people, the landscape, the culture, the food and the environment. It offers over 7,500 responsible holidays from over 3,000 holiday providers which all support communities and conservation. Handpicked local specialists provide authentic holidays for those seeking adventure, culture, or luxury whether travelling with family, joining a small group or looking for tailor-made activities worldwide as diverse as walking -, cycling - and dolphin watching -

In addition

  • founded and organises The World Responsible Tourism Awards, celebrating 11 years at World Travel Market this year.
  • campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.

CEO Justin Francis has been included in Courvoisiers The Future 500, Thames and Hudsons 60 Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future and taken his place on the Advisory Board of The International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The company is based in Brighton's North Laine district, England.

Sarah Bareham
press (at)
01273 829 269 (UK)

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Sarah Bareham
since: 09/2009
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