The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, U Thein Sein, has announced the country will initiate the process of restoring its membership of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The decision was confirmed during an official visit of UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. On the occasion, highlighting the role of tourism in the future of Myanmar, President Sein joined the UNWTO/WTTC Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign (Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, May 7, 2012).
“Tourism is a major sector of the economy not only for Myanmar but also for all countries around the world. It brings benefits to a country, boosts its economy, and create employment opportunities,” said President Sein, “We, therefore, request that our membership of UNWTO be restored so that we can obtain the relevant knowledge to further promote and develop our tourism sector.”
Meeting with President Sein, Mr. Rifai assured him that UNWTO stood ready to support Myanmar in taking full advantage of its “tremendous tourism potential.”
“Myanmar is a country abundant in natural and cultural resources, the foundation of any tourism sector,” said Mr. Rifai, “Following talks with the Minister of Hotels, Tourism and Sport, U Tint San, UNWTO will lend its expertise in a number of areas, ranging from capacity-building to sustainable tourism practices and travel facilitation, to responsibly develop tourism for the benefit of all.”
During his visit, Mr. Rifai, presented President Sein with an Open Letter from UNWTO and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) on the importance of tourism to global growth and development. Accepting the Letter, President Sein stated that “tourism should be considered a ‘smokeless industry’” and one that “boosts growth, creates job opportunities, conserves the environment, and helps to maintain traditional arts and crafts.”
“Given the political support for tourism demonstrated today, Myanmar is set to significantly enhance its tourism sector over the coming years,” said Mr. Rifai, “At the same time, the international community has been greatly encouraged by recent reforms in Myanmar, and this will no doubt be reflected in an increasing numbers of tourists. These tourists will quickly prove a vital source of jobs and economic growth, helping to secure the country’s future prosperity. UNWTO is 100 percent committed to supporting Myanmar, to make sure that its tourism development is a success story.”
David Scowsill, President and CEO, WTTC said: “I am pleased that the significance of the travel and tourism industry is increasingly being recognized by Myanmar. With its rich eco-diversity, natural, and cultural heritage together with a commitment to responsible tourism, Myanmar is increasingly harnessing its travel and tourism potential. In 2011, the industry contributed MMK1435.4 bn to the GDP of the economy and contributed 726,500 jobs. By joining this global movement of heads of state and government through this signing of the Open Letter, the President demonstrates his commitment to support the growth and development of its travel and tourism industry.”
According to UNWTO’s long-term forecast, Tourism Towards 2030, international tourist arrivals to Asia and the Pacific will increase from 204 million in 2010 to 535 million in 2030. South Asia will be the fastest growing sub-region in the world, growing 6 percent a year. “Asia and the Pacific is the future powerhouse of global tourism, and Myanmar is in a strategic position to receive a significant share of these arrivals,” said Mr. Rifai.