Burma’s tourism authorities have unveiled a £320 million plan to help bring tourists to a country that for years was considered off limits.
The initiative hopes to make tourism a “pillar” of the Burmese economy and includes 38 development projects.
The focus will be to expand international arrivals into the country’s airports at Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, to improve the Bagan river pier so that more cruises can operate and to build main roads into popular destinations such as Inle Lake and Ngapali beach.
“This master plan outlines a path to welcoming more visitors to Myanmar without threatening our unique cultural heritage or endangering pristine environments,” said U Htay Aung, Burma’s minister for hotels and tourism.
It has been funded by the Norwegian government with the help of the Asian Development Bank.
Provisions to safeguard ethnic communities are also expected to feature, with pilot community-based tourism projects designed to provide local people with the means to maintain control over the increasing number of visitors.
The country received a record number of tourists last year, as it opens up to the wider world following the release of the pro-democracy politician Aung San Suu Kyi.
It welcomed more than a million visitors, with half a million arriving by air. Most international visitors are from Thailand, followed by China. Forecasters expect this figure to rise to 7.5 million by 2020, providing up to 1.4 million jobs.
There are also new proposals to prevent child trafficking and sex tourism, introduce tourist police divisions and to streamline licensing laws for hotels, restaurants, tour guides and tour operators.
“Tourism will be a pillar of Myanmar’s economy, and it has the potential to create meaningful job opportunities for the country’s people, including those living in poor communities,” said Stephen Groff, the vice president of the Asian Development Bank. “This plan is a long-term vision, and a solid start to ensuring tourism contributes to equitable social and economic development in Myanmar.”