Thursday, 5 April 2018


 Myanmar Photo: ITC
“It is important not to lose this momentum and stay with the people of Myanmar who only now start to benefit from tourism.” 

Travelife’s Naut Kusters talking about tourism, the situation in Myanmar and why it’s good to continue to visit the country. During the world’s biggest tourism trade show in Berlin, Naut Kusters from the UK based organisation Travelife joined a press conference on tourism in Myanmar. He made some very valid points about a wrong perception of tour operators and travellers that are avoiding to visit or promote Myanmar as a tourist destination at the moment. MTM asked him some more questions after the trade show.

  • What has Travelife achieved in Myanmar so far and what are targets for Travelife in Myanmar for the coming years?
Myanmar was among the first Asian countries for Travelife for Tour operators to become active. This was thanks to the initial support by the Dutch government CBI programme. Our first training was in 2014 and was originally planned for 30 companies. We received 140 applicants. As it was the first ever training for companies on CSR and sustainability we organised two trainings and allowed in total 80 people to join per training.

Meanwhile we have 15 awarded companies and many more are engaged with Travelife working towards recognition and certification.

As a next step we wish to involve more (leading) companies and to establish common standards for suppliers, such as hotels, excursion providers and Elephant camps.

As Travelife we facilitate our local partners to take the lead and set joint standards. Recently a group of in sustainability leading companies has established the Myanmar Sustainable Tour Operator Network (MSTON) with the aim to set common standards towards their suppliers and to exchange best practices. We also engaged an expert, Mona Konrad to support our work in Myanmar and provide personal coaching to our member companies in Myanmar.

  • Can you give a sample of Travelife Criteria that are very specific for Myanmar?
In 2014 we established the Myanmar specific Travelife Partner standard. There are not so much Myanmar specific standards as the issues at stake are quite similar in each country. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the discussion and strong commitment of the UMTA to develop Myanmar as a sustainable destination, learning from the mistakes of other countries in the region. There was a strong interest to develop some sector wide minimum requirements.

  • As Myanmar is currently a lot in the news because of the situation in Northern Rakhine State and some travellers or tour operators believe it’s better to avoid Myanmar. What is Travelife advice to these travellers?
We are aware that tourists and some tour operators have started to avoid or even sanction Myanmar. As Travelife we have no specific position on this case. We have one criteria which expects our certified members to follow UN sanctions. These are presently not announced for the Myanmar travel sector. In CSR leading international tour operators such as Intrepid and have publicly stated that they are against boycotting Myanmar. They state it better to stay involved and to work actively with local partners in ensuring that the benefits of tourism will reach the local (ethnic) minorities. During the last 5 years lots has been invested by local tour operators and development organisations to create a more inclusive tourism in Myanmar, for example in Kayah state. It is important not to lose this momentum and stay with the people of Myanmar who only now start to benefit from tourism. Responsible tour operators could have a critical look towards their partners and the products they promote.

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