Positive Influences of Tourism

On the flip side, tourism as a development tool can have good potential. Contextualised to Burma where possible, the below bullet points give an overview of some positives of tourism.

Creating employment opportunities: Direct employment opportunities include ownership, management and employment in tourist hotels, restaurants, guided activities, providing transport, porter services, selling of handicrafts andsouvenirs. Indirect employment opportunities refer to the supply of goods and services that support tourism establishments, for example the food and suppliers for restaurants; the furniture to outfit guesthouses and hotels; the fuel used for transportation.

Providing rural livelihood opportunities: Tourism can provide opportunities for rural development as it can provide people with an alternative to moving to urban areas. As with other South-East Asian countries, urbanization is one the rise in Burma, and it is estimated that 30% of the total population is urban.

Providing opportunity to diversify local economy: In areas that are experiencing saturation of the agricultural market, depletion of natural resources and fishing catches due to climate change and globalization influences, tourism can provide an alternative livelihood opportunity. This helps to diversify the local economy and mitigate risk of overdependence on a certain industry. Furthermore, tourism can help develop poor and marginal areas that have few other diversification options.[1] However, this relies on the organization of the local community, or at least enterprising members. One simple way that tourists can play a part in diversifying local economy is by supporting small businesses – this includes anything from buying fruit from a street-side vendor, to buying stationary, to buying Burmese music or clothes shopping

Help conservation: In theory, tourism can help conserve the environment. This is ironic, given the role that tourism plays in degrading the natural environment. However, evidence both regionally and globally shows that local governments, communities and other stakeholders are now realizing that once the tourist draw card is trashed, the tourists won’t come anymore, and are now starting to manage and protect the environment. How much of this is true in Burma is hard to say. Despite the claims made by the Burmese government about its commitment to the environment, the widely documented evidence to the contrary is hard to ignore. Whilst governments in other countries in the region, under pressure from civil society, are actively embarking on environmental protection to protect local biodiversity, this is not happening in Burma. Therefore, the onus is on the individuals visiting Burma to make their own effort in conservation. See the Environment Tips page.

Encourage women’s participation: According to Tourism Concern, a general trend with responsible tourism is that women are given a more centralized role. Proponents of pro-poor tourism claim that is due to the service nature of the industry and high proportion of low-skill domestic jobs. Also, many informal sector activities such as hawking allow women to play an active role. Traditionally women have been responsible for the making and selling of handicrafts (however this can have some devastating environmental effects, in terms of the usage of local resources such as shells and wood products.) In Burma, if tourists choose to stay in family-run guesthouses or eat at family-run teashops, this is a direct way to ensure the active participation of women.

Educational opportunities: In order to support tourists, formal and informal educational and vocational training is undertaken by members of local communities. For example, tourism workers can have the opportunity to learn other languages such as English (either formally or through self-learning or exchange with tourists), as well as receive formal or informal training to guide and cater for tourists. VfB knows people who have used the English they learned from working as tour guides to help them with their studies and their careers.

Raising sensitivity to political, cultural and social climate: Tourism can help domestic, regional and international visitors to gain a better understanding to the problems that people face. Whilst no direct benefit to the local people may arise from this understanding, experiential learning is a key component in appreciating the complexities other countries face. There is always the potential for visitors to go back to their country and share these experiences with their friends and local communities. Such encounters may help to bridge the gap between the developed and the developing worlds, or in some cases, give a sense of solidarity between the tourist and the locals.
Cultural Exchange: Modern societies in an increasingly globalised world must be aware of how other cultures work in order to survive. Tourists benefit from learning about Burmese culture – in all senses, ie food, language, traditions, arts, sport etc. In the same way, tourists, so long as they are sensitive to local customs, can help Burmese people learn about their home cultures. Knowing about a foreign culture makes it easier to deal with people from that culture, whether from the business, education or aid/development sectors.

[1] Ashley, Caroline, Boyd, Charlotte and Goodwin, Harold (2000), ‘Pro-Poor Tourism: Putting Poverty at the Heart of the Tourism Agenda’, Natural Resource Perspectives, Number 51, Published by the Overseas Development Institute, sourced on 10th January, from www.odi.org.uk/nrp/51.htm

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