Myanmar

Q&A: Peaceful Tourism U Thet Lwin Toh

Q&A: Peaceful Tourism U Thet Lwin Toh


As a founding member and current chairman of the Union of Myanmar Tourism Associations, U Thet Lwin Toh has witnessed many changes in the tourism industry over the years. He first started a travel agency company in 1993 offering pilgrimage tours in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand and quickly became a pioneer of outbound tour operators. Drawing on his 25 years of experience, he discusses the difficulties facing Myanmar’s tourism industry and his hopes and aspirations for the future.

Tourism has dropped by 20-30% in the last year; what’s the forecast for the upcoming season?

Compared to last year, the drop in arrivals this year is not as severe as more tourists from the East are arriving. Chinese tourists increased by 36%, Korean tourists increased by 12%, and Japanese tourists increased by 2%. This is because they already issued the visa on October 1st. But this is volume tourism, and our country needs value tourism. That is from Western countries. Our goal is the sustainable tourism of the future. Today’s western market fell as much as 40-50% on the day. Eastern tourism is good in the short term, while Western tourism is long-term. Our State Councilor understands this too.

What do you think Myanmar can do to repair its bad reputation among western tourists?

Their image of Myanmar has changed over the past four years. It used to be known as the Land of the Ladies, but today it is known for human rights violations and, in the case of Rakhine State, a genocidal state. We need more aggressive media outreach. But our government doesn’t respond fast enough, they don’t have transparency. Tourism is a very sensitive industry. There was the saffron revolution in 2007 and Cyclone Nargis in 2008, but it was worse than those events.

What are the plans to make Yangon more attractive to tourists?

There are many scenic spots in Myanmar besides Yangon, but there is only Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.Tourists need places for sightseeing, shopping and leisure, as well as entertainment and leisure
night life. Another scenic spot in Yangon, last year introduced the Mingalabar Balloon of Kandawgyi Lake, which can have a panoramic view of Yangon.We had to close it for the monsoon but
We’re reinvesting in more efficient balloons. It will be done soon. We also planned a Lantern Festival, which was like a miniature Disneyland. The project has been approved and will start before Christmas and run until the end of March. We also want night markets and Sunday markets, every country has something like that. San Francisco has a farmers market, Japan has a hundred-yen market, but not here. Tourists need to find a place to go after eating. We intend to use Shwedagon Pagoda Road as a market space. For the Sunday market, we want Pansodan to be a closed road market. Sellers are very important, if you have a good seller, you will have a good buyer.

Are these new night and Sunday markets publicly or privately funded?

This is a very important question. YCDC can do short-term festivals, but they cannot manage long-term ones. We would like to appoint an operations management company for this space. They can rent the venue and pay taxes to YCDC, they will have to manage everything like organization, security and cleaning.

What is your opinion on the renovation plan of the secretariat?

For the secretariat, we need more decoration and attractiveness. We need a museum that commemorates the last gathering of our martyrs. There should be a good library and a coffee shop or bar with some evening entertainment. It’s a unique place, but some conservatives are against preserving it. But this is the wrong way. We should close the roads outside for booksellers on Sundays and have antique peddlers too. Like Le Rambla in Barcelona, ​​it’s not just for tourists, but for locals as well.

how is the current situation Bagan’s UNESCO application?

I am also a member of the Bagan Management Council. We finalized our masterplan last September and made a proposal to UNESCO.Last month, UNESCO inspectors
bagan. Bagan is acceptable for the time being, but there are many issues with the local community and the hotel. They don’t want anyone to live in the area anymore, but we’ve argued about it. Our goal is “Living Bagan”; we want to preserve the existing hotel.

what is your hope The future of tourism in Yangon?

We want people to spend more time in Yangon, it should be greener; it should be a smart and clean city. People’s mentality is also very important. People’s mentality has become very selfish and aggressive instead of kind. I am ashamed of my people. Tourism is for everyone; everyone can make money traveling. Today, the NLD government tries to bring peace, but business development is out of the question. Business is booming, everyone eats and sleeps well, and the world is peaceful. Today, the reason we fight is because of poverty, especially in rural areas. In minority areas, we should focus on education and community tourism. We should be there to promote tourism and bring in clean tourism dollars. It will unleash their smuggling, narcotics business and trafficking business. That is our dream; peaceful tourism. I also tried to explain this to Aung San Suu Kyi – but she was under a lot of pressure.



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