Should Tourists Travel to Burma?

Community Highlights Asia Should Tourists Travel to Burma?

Bagan at sunrise, Myanmar Photo by Neil Wade

Should tourists boycott travel to Burma, or should they actively seek to travel there?

That's a question which Travellerspoint members have been discussing in the forums lately. Since it's such an important topic, I thought I'd highlight some of what's been said (read the full discussion here).

Buzzard, who has visited Burma 6 times, started the thread with the bold proclamation that the best time to visit Burma is now:

Rest assured that the government will get along just fine without bus loads of tourists travelling around the country. Their business dealings with China, Thailand, and India are more than enough to sustain their cash flow. But without foreigners visiting the country, locals who depend upon tourism are facing the prospect of little or no income for the rest of the year. Those most affected include people working in hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and travel agencies, as well as trishaw and horse cart drivers, and freelance vendors. I heard from three friends in Yangon (Rangoon) yesterday, all of whom work at travel agencies. Two are basically throwing in the towel, convinced that the rest of the year is lost. But the other one is determined not to give up, hoping she can convince more tourists that it's now safe to visit.

Mel, on the other hand, argued that travellers should support Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has asked Western tourists to boycott travel to Burma:

If we demonstrate in the way that the political activists of a particular repressive regime ask us to, we give weight to their words. It is not merely about depriving the government of money. We have to find a direction to push in and then all push together, then the governments of these countries will feel the disapproval of the world, and not only of their own people.

Greg, who also commented on the discussion in his blog, responded:

I'm certainly against supporting the Junta, but I'm not certain that sanctions are the right route. Certainly any sort of sanctions without China or India on board seem pointless, as the amount of trade other countries have with Burma is so small...

Ultimately, I think that any change that happens is going to have to come from within, either because the Junta is ousted from power, or the Junta determine that a change is the best course

Jekalo agreed that sanctions weren't the answer, saying:

...flooding the economy with western products and ideas would do so much more. Tourism also helps to get the truth out to the rest of the world about what goes on here. Why do you think they shut down the internet for weeks during the unrest and started confiscating cell phones and digital cameras? The more visitors the better chance of the spread of information outside the country and also gives the people here more information about the rest of the world. Word that is not filtered through the governments censors and spin doctors.

What do you think? Should travellers boycott Burma, or is now the best time to visit?

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By dr.pepper

Posted Mon, Oct 22, 2007 | Myanmar