Tourism Transparency launched the first 5000 copies of a “dos and don’ts” booklet for tourists at the opening of the Hanns Seidel Foundation Office in Yangon last month.
Dr Andrea Valentin of Tourism Transparency said Hanns Seidel Foundation had supported the publication of the publication, which features 30 cartoons to help travellers understand the traditions and cultures of the communities they visit.
“The booklet took a little more than four months to finish. In five weeks my assistant and I travelled around the country and spoke with more than 350 people in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Kengtung and Nyaungshwe about what are the main issues, and what should be communicated to tourists,” Dr Valentin said.
The booklet fits into the first action point of the new Responsible Tourism Policy – minimising unethical practices. The policy was developed with the support of Hanns Seidel Foundation and has been sent to the cabinet for approval.
“We wanted to get it out in time for the tourism peak season. We received approval for this project from Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar Tourism Board and Hanns Seidel Foundation in May this year, and we began the research in June. Then we presented the research results in Nay Pyi Taw to 17 ministries related to tourism during a very interesting day of ‘dos and don’ts’ debate. I presented what our respondents told us, and then we all finalised the guidelines together. We even had a democratic election about what guidelines should be included,” Dr Valentin said.
“It was absolutely essential for us to speak not only with the tourism elites but also with the people on the ground, who bear the largest impact of tourism but are rarely consulted. We spoke with trishaw drivers, horse-cart drivers, ethnic minority villagers, pagoda trustees, monks, comedians, tour guides, hoteliers, artisans, restaurant managers, food sellers on the street, embassies, NGOs, tour operators, travel agents, taxi drivers and many more,” she added.
The booklet features the works of a range of cartoonists, including Ngwe Kyi, Thit Htoon, Harn Lay, Aw Pyi Kyeh and Chit Thu.
Dr Valentin said there was concern that a rapid increase in tourism could bring serious negative consequences for the country.
“The negative impacts of tourism are slowly becoming visible, and many different people have told us that this book is important and will be very useful. Most international visitors are not conversant with the plurality of Myanmar culture and may cause unintended negative impacts. We try to minimise these negative impacts by raising their awareness on the intricacies of Myanmar culture,” she said.
“We hope to distribute the booklet widely across the country, to make sure that as many visitors as possible will get their hands on it,” she added.
Hard copies of the book will be distributed through tourism companies and other supporters, while soft copies can be viewed and downloaded from the website www.dosanddontsfortourists.com.
The book is free and printing will be financed through sponsorship.