020_Global12_InFocus_Tourism_5

Global issue 12

Global InsightSustainable Tourism Lessons for Burma from its neighbours Tom Fawthrop in Chiang Mai Bling those of neighbouring Thailand, is The distinguished chairman of Apsara, Vann pollution, but waste and sewage pour into theful scenery of Ha Long Bay. In the latter, notonly do the tourist ferries cause unnecessarytemple zone, but they have had little controlover the free-for-all of tourism development.urma, an exciting new destination inSouth East Asia with attractions rival- about to experience a wave of new tourist ar- Molyvann, one of Asia’s most acclaimed ar- ocean from other sources, including a major in- rivals and a huge expansion of its travel indus- chitects, tried to rein in this development, but dustrial development zone nearby. The bay is try. With the emergence of a reform-minded his dedication to heritage conservation and also suffering major sedimentation caused by government, foreign investors have swarmed his strong resistance to investors who want to the removal of mangrove forests from coastal into the country and have been thronging the build even closer to the temples placed him areas to make way for the industrial zone. All hotel lobbies of the former capital, Rangoon. at loggerheads with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the coral has been killed off and only now are Burma is buzzing with an air of fevered who felt Apsara was holding back economic belated steps being taken to curb the pollution. expectation and investment opportunity. development. Vann Molyvann was pressured A neighbouring country that Burma could Travel operators and international hotel to resign. Now there are dire warnings that the learn a lot from is Laos, which has been ac- groups are a big segment of those want- excessive use of scarce water resources to sup- tively promoting ecotourism and has made ing to take advantage of the new business ply the many new hotels is threatening the very its mark in regional tourism by hosting the climate. But is this country really prepared foundations of Angkor Wat itself. World Ecotourism Conference in Vientiane and ready to channel the great curiosity Another concern is that while the temples twice over. This landlocked country of moun- of the world in a new and little developed have certainly generated tens of millions of tains, rivers and dozens of waterfalls is ideally tourist destination, and to ensure that the dollars, very little of this cash fl ow has trick- suited to provide adventure trails in the forests, benefi ts from the infl ux of visitors are not led down to the majority of the poor farmers as well as community-based tourism. It offers confi ned to the business elite, but also fl ow living in the province of Siem Reap. Much of home-stay services and its young villagers are to the local communities? What environ- the food for the hotels is imported from Thai- eager to be trained as forest guides. It is the mental safeguards are in place to prevent a land and not locally sourced. The majority of kind of tourism that can be demonstrated as tourist invasion in the coming years from visitors buy their tours in Bangkok and fl y on driving grassroots development. infl icting massive pollution on the pris- Thai-owned airlines. And the main benefi ci- There is little doubt that the equally hos- tine coast alongside the Andaman Sea, and aries of the Cambodian-owned hotels in Siem pitable people of Burma would only be too many other areas of natural beauty? Reap are a tiny business elite, many of them pleased to offer the same eco-tourist services Neighbouring countries like Laos, Cam- related to key members of the Phnom Penh if its ministry of tourism would pass laws to bodia, Thailand and Vietnam, each with government. permit families to set up guest houses, offer their more developed tourist industries, can Such short-sighted policies, which put home stays and encourage community par- provide some useful lessons for Burma. profi ts before sustainability and bring lit- ticipation. Cambodia, once peace had returned after the tle development to the province as a whole, The opposition National League for De- torments of the Khmer Rouge era, witnessed a provide a clear example of the pitfalls for mocracy has already declared its belief in huge tourism boom, not least at its legendary any country on the brink of becoming a ma- “tourism that is ethical and environmen- temple complex of Angkor Wat. However, jor new tourist hotspot. tally conscious”, and now agencies like the frenetic pace of hotel construction in the In Burma, there are spectacular ancient Tourism Transparency International will be nearby town of Siem Reap, where there is little temples in Bagan. Careful planning of con- watching with great interest to examine the environmental regulation, has triggered major servation zones and environmental protec- policies that the Burmese government itself problems through the inadequate planning of tion are required now if they are to avoid chooses to pursue in this important sector water supply and sewerage systems. some of the acute problems threatening the of potential development. The Apsara Authority, the offi cial independ- temples in Cambodia. ent body mandated to provide conservation Vietnam also enjoys a number of famed Tom Fawthrop is a freelance journalist and and protection of the ancient temples, has tried world heritage sites, including the ancient seat independent fi lm-maker covering South East Asia to keep new hotels from encroaching on the of Vietnamese kings in Hue, and the wonder- 20 lwww.global-briefing.org fourth quarter 2012global


Global issue 12
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