A community-based tourism dilemma: COVID’s ‘new normal’ vs ‘back to normal’

A community-based tourism dilemma: COVID’s ‘new normal’ vs ‘back to normal’

At the start of 2020, the future looked very promising for the Myanmar Inclusive Tourism Project, which is funded by The Netherlands and implemented by the UN International Trade Centre. Following five years of hands-on work alongside local community members, tour operators, and tour guides with a passion for local experiences, our team of national and international consultants had celebrated two significant achievements: a successful third season for inclusive, community based tourism (CBT) in Kayah state, and a successful familiarisation (FAM) trip to explore new CBT experiences in the emerging destination of Dawei, Tanintharyi Region.

In 2014, when our project started, Kayah state offered almost no activities for tourists. Between 2015 and 2020, ITC worked with stakeholders to implement a rigorous, step by step process of community consultation, product development and B2B marketing. This included work with local communities, ground handlers and tour guides, national DMC’s, and EU tour operators. By the end of 2019, international arrivals to Kayah state had grown by 390% to 12,973 visitors. Kayah’s market share had grown by 150%. Inspiring, new community-based experiences developed by ITC had been key to this responsible tourism success story.

New community-based tourism tours included the chance to experience Pan Pet, homeland of the iconic ‘Long Neck’ Kayan, and Hta Nee La Leh, an ethnic Karenni community. In 2019, 35% of international visitors to Kayah joined one of the CBT tours. A total of 4,409 visitors enjoyed authentic experiences of local life, culture, and nature in Pan Pet and 3,487 visitors experienced CBT in Hta Nee La Leh.

These tours generated more than USD 35,000 income for village service providers that year, while catalyzing additional business ~ USD 650,000 or more for Loikaw tourism businesses. Between 2016 and 2019, the value of new business for local Kayah SME tourism suppliers, based only on tour programs that included ITC CBTs, is estimated to be more than USD 1.4 million.

This is an excerpt from an article by Peter Richards, originally published on The “Good Tourism” Blog.

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