Is there a right way to travel to Burma?

Is there a right way to travel to Burma?

Recently, the leading Burmese opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) announced that it had revised its position on tourism. While the party had discouraged all tourism to Burma for decades, it is now prepared to welcome responsible travelers who are aware of the political implications of their visits and who behave responsibly.

Children helping their parents. Photo: www.khrg.org

Our Czech supporters know that the Burma Center Prague has developed a similar position in recent years. While we decided not to condemn all forms of tourism to Burma, we have clearly described several criteria that would turn even a well-meaning trip to Burma into a disservice to its people.

But is it possible to leverage all the advantages of responsible foreign travel to Burma for a positive development? And is it ethical to try to offset the unavoidable support of the regime by giving one’s maximum support to the people?

Only the future will tell whether or not responsible tourism will make a difference. What we believe is necessary to respond to the expected surge of foreign tourists to Burma is to raise the awareness of foreign tourists and of travel operators. They are responsible for their choices. And we are trying to do this in a relatively unusual way, by storytelling. We will display stories by travelers and by locals side-by-side and thus highlight each issue from different viewpoints. And we want to break a common pattern where development issues are tackled with locals serving only as passive placeholders without being able to raise their own voices. Finally, we want to empower these locals also through capacity building. If they don’t know about the issues or their rights, then they won’t be able to do real work on the ground.

According to this concept we have chosen the motto:

Empower People. Contribute Stories. Own your choices.

You can find the website at www.ecoburma.com.

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