Promoting ethical tourism in Myanmar
Myanmar is universally hailed as a friendly and unspoilt tourist destination. If this reputation is to be preserved, however, the tourism industry cannot be allowed to exploit the workers who, through encounters in restaurants and hotels, often leave travellers with their fondest memories of the country.
Since becoming legal, unions have been forming at a rapid rate, but to date only one ‘labour organisation’ has been registered in the tourism hotel sector. This was established by workers at the Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon; an expensive boutique hotel with about sixty rooms. The major Traders Hotel has not yet been organised and a large Novotel is currently under construction. There are other large hotels in government ownership, as well as many other medium sized hotels under local ownership in Yangon, and the tourist centres of Bagan and Mandalay.
This project will be managed and funded jointly by UnionAID and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) Asia-Pacific, and it will also involve an international campaign for “Ethical Tourism in Myanmar”. Moe Min Thaw, an alumni of our Burma Young Community Leaders Programme, has offered to be our ‘man on the ground’ to oversee the project.
Initially two local staff will be employed to research and map the major foreign owned hotels in Yangon to develop an evidence base relating to conditions of employment and issues for workers. Organisers will be hired to develop and conduct training, and identify potential labour leaders for further training. Project staff will develop an international on-line “Ethical Tourism for Myanmar” campaign promoting appropriate standards – including labour standards – for Myanmar tourism, as part of a broader campaign which includes Laos and Cambodia.