Local businesses take steps in creating sustainable and digitally smart heritage tourism in Bagan, Myanmar.
March 13, 2023
On March 13, 2023, Mekong Institute (MI) joined with Myanmar Voyages in organizing a hybrid workshop titled “Bagan Roadshow on Sustainable and Smart Tourism Development”. Approximately 50 local businesses in Bagan attended the half-day event which aimed to enhance key stakeholders’ knowledge on sustainable and smart tourism practices, highlight business opportunities and serve as an exchange platform among Bagan businesses in the tourism sector. The event also introduced a new mobile application as a push towards digitally smart heritage tourism.
Prior to this, MI hosted similar roadshows in four other UNESCO heritage sites of Mekong Countries, namely Ayutthaya, Siem Reap, Luang Prabang, and Hue. The Bagan roadshow was the fifth and final roadshow event.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Jackie Thet Lwin Toh, Managing Director of Myanmar Voyages, said, "Bagan has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the political instability in Myanmar. While we are now taking steps toward recovering local businesses, this initiative plays a crucial role in accelerating the process. Through digital presence and increased direct exposure to target markets, local businesses will have the opportunity to improve both their competitiveness and environmental sustainability. Therefore, I believe this project will greatly benefit Bagan's economic recovery efforts and the tourism industry's resiliency in Myanmar as a whole."
Mr. Madhurjya K. Dutta, the Trade and Investment Facilitation Department Director, MI, underscored the needed collective efforts by saying, “Travelers are increasingly concerned about the environment, prompting all stakeholders in the tourism sector to make sustainability a priority. Therefore, in this journey, we must join hands to meet the growing demand for sustainable tourism so that Bagan will be recognized as a sustainable tourism destination.”
“Today’s activity is part of a ‘Sustainable and Smart Tourism Development in the Mekong Region’ project. It is aimed largely at those in the hotel and resort sector with sustainability as a core business, including tour operators with a focus on ecology and community, producers of handicrafts and souvenirs, artisans and culinary providers, as well as associations promoting local fine arts and musical instruments, eco-friendly accommodation providers, and digital media outlets dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism,” he added.
Another highlight was the exhibition by Bagan local businesses around the event’s grounds, inviting guests and participants to visit the booths. Showcases ranged from the handmade goods and food, tourism services, cultural and traditional arts, visual arts, and community-based tourism experiences and activities which are on offer.
To help improve the travel experience and promote knowledge exchange, a new mobile application is underway. Dr. Sangwon Park, Kyung Hee University, who is behind the development of the digital tool, took to the stage to present the app to the audience: “The new application will increase access to information on sustainability practices of the local businesses and help promote their products at selected heritage sites. Through the app, sustainable and smart heritage tourism best practices from various heritage sites in Mekong Countries will be shared.”
Two other experts provided insights on sustainable tourism, namely Ms. Catherine Germiel-Hamel, CEO, Destination Mekong, who talked about the Point of Interest (POI) data used to create attractive content for the mobile app, and Ms. Daisy Park, a project consultant, who gave an insightful presentation on Korean travelers, market opportunities and the potential of digital technology in sustainable tourism promotion.