Photo Essay: Building sustainable tourism in Myanmar
Ma Naw Eh Way runs her own business and employs women with a disability to make jewelry from their home. For many women it’s their first opportunity to earn a sustainable income.
Way’s business is one of nine selected by the Myanmar Tourism Hub to be supported through skills training. The Hub is a Business Partnerships Platform initiative to create jobs, income and growth for SMEs in tourism in Myanmar.
Locally based socially and environmentally responsible tourism plays an important role in enabling inclusive economic growth in developing countries.
The Business Partnerships Platform partnered with Australian Volunteers International and the Intrepid Group to establish the Hub, leveraging the skills and abilities of business to address development challenges.
Acting as a market and business advisory platform, the Hub provides business expertise and support, including business skills training, legal advice, practical capacity building skills focusing on tourism and market expertise, and facilitating small loans to establish and grow member businesses.
Intrepid offers similar travel products in other developing countries, providing revenue-generating opportunities for local communities supplying accommodation, tours and activities to small groups. Under this partnership, Intrepid provided the critical link to the tourism market by including Hub participants in their product portfolio. The initiative is managed by AVI, building on its 30 years of experience supporting locally-driven initiatives to promote economic growth in Myanmar.
Meet the women behind four of the businesses selected:
Ma Naw Eh War – Founder, Amazing Grace Set on a peaceful Yangon backstreet opposite a local school, the shopfront to Naw Eh Wah’s social enterprise ‘Amazing Grace’ is unassuming. But climb the simple concrete stairs and a feast of colours and textures awaits. Jewellery and craftworks cover the walls and floor, which serves as a commercial store as well as a workshop for the female artisans driving this business. This is what Amazing Grace is all about. Women supporting woman. Naw Eh Wah employs women, particularly those living with disabilities, as artisans to make jewellery and other fashion accessories using environmentally sustainable and ethical products. Through her engagement with the Sustainable Tourism Hub, Naw Eh Wah improved her business skills and is now developing jewellery making workshops so more people can enjoy this in-depth experience. By training and employing local women and encouraging flexible, work-from-home arrangements, Naw Eh Wah fosters their creative talent as well as their confidence. For many of these women, it’s their first opportunity to earn a sustainable income to support themselves and their families with dignity.
Ma Cho Cho Than, Founder – Sweet Memories Ma Cho Cho Than’s love of Myanmar’s traditional Pathein umbrellas was the inspiration behind her company ‘Sweet Memories’. When Ma Cho Cho’s artist friends designed their own brightly painted umbrellas, she saw a business opportunity to turn a popular tourist souvenir into an immersive cultural experience, running workshops where participants can paint their own umbrellas as a keepsake.
Ma Su Pyae Soe, Founder – Bawgawaddy Tea Culture Myanmar has a unique tea culture derived from a mixture of ancient influences from India, and more modern traits from Britain. With this varied background and unusual blend of historic lineages, Myanmar has developed a unique way of growing, serving and consuming tea. Teashops have long played an important role in Myanmar life, and the country’s thriving tea culture can be seen on almost every street. Ma Su Pyae Soe identified a strong interest in tourism as a former employee of Intrepid Travel. Her company, Bawgawaddy Tea Culture, gives tourists the opportunity to both learn about the history of Myanmar’s tea culture and participate in a workshop where they can brew their own.
Ma San San Mon, Founder – Thanlyin Village Cycling Tour Ma San San Mon used her five years’ experience in the tourism industry to develop a business plan to operate cycling tours, providing tourists with an opportunity to immerse themselves into the daily lives of local villagers in Thanlyin, 45 minutes from Yangon. Through a partnership with the local cycling club, bicycles are rented and regularly maintained, and club members act as guides. The five-hour, 15 km tour includes two hours of cycling and three hours visiting sites including the bustling central fruit and vegetable market, an old Portuguese Church and rice paddies, before participating in the preparation of a traditional Burmese lunch and tea. What are you waiting for?