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More than 200 experts, policymakers, government officials, and journalists who participated in the three-day international conference on ecotourism in protected areas said streamlining ecotourism in protected areas will go a long way in strengthening livelihoods, conservation, and adaptation.
Discussing topics like climate change, spiritual tourism, nature conservation financing, working with host communities, etc., they said creating and sharing new knowledge on ecotourism policy and practice would be crucial to determine the direction of progress countries make in the field of ecotourism.
The international conference titled ‘Ecotourism in Protected Areas: Strengthening Livelihoods, Conservation, and Adaptation’, held from 19 to 21 May 2015, was organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and jointly hosted by Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF).
Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar His Excellency U Nyan Tun officially opened the conference on 19 May at the Myanmar International Convention Centre (MICC II) in Nay Pyi Taw. The opening ceremony also saw the launch of Myanmar’s new ‘Ecotourism Policy and Management Strategy’, developed with technical collaboration from ICIMOD.
In his opening address, Vice President U Nyan Tun said that not only is tourism Myanmar’s one of the largest service industries, but it also one of the seven priority sectors spelt out in the country’s economic policy. “The contribution and cooperation from different sectors of the tourism industry will be critical to the success of implementation of the Ecotourism Policy and Management Strategy,” he said.
During a closed-door session in the morning of 19 May, Minister U Win Tun of MOECAF noted the opportunities the tourism sector presented in Myanmar. “Ecotourism provides an opportunity to fulfil development goals as stipulated by the Government of Myanmar including green growth, people-centered development, people-oriented approaches, and maintaining the national culture and identity,” he said, adding that the ministry is planning to increase the number of ecotourism sites.
In his closing remarks in the afternoon of 21 May, Minister U Htay Aung of MOHT said that Myanmar’s new Ecotourism Policy has been developed to guide the systematic and sustainable development and management of ecotourism, and to avoid and mitigate any potential negative impacts that may arise from unregulated nature-based tourism development. “We fully believe that ecotourism will not only benefit the protected areas through conservation, but also the local communities through employment, capacity development, and alternative source of livelihood,” he said.
ICIMOD’s Regional Programme Manager Dr Dhrupad Choudhury said the Conference is an important milestone in the support ICIMOD has extended to the Government of Myanmar in the process of formulating the Ecotourism Policy and Strategy. “We are privileged to have supported this Policy through the whole process with the strong support of the two ministries. We will look forward to continuing this partnership and foster regional cooperation and knowledge generation,” he said.
Pointing out the need to engage communities at the local level, ICIMOD’s Theme Leader for Livelihoods, Dr Golam Rasul, said, “For making ecotourism a success, we need to engage the key stakeholders, particularly the local communities, to diversify their livelihood options and improve their lives.”
The Conference was endorsed by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and was supported by key sponsors, including the European Union, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) – Environment Operations Center, Empower Consultancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Kempinski Hotel.
Conference website: www.icimod.org/ecotourism2015
Conference social media hashtag: #ecotourism2015
ICIMOD Facebook: www.facebook.com/icimod
For additional information on the Conference, please contact:
Marjorie van Strien, ICIMOD
Daw Khaing Mee Mee Htun
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT), Myanmar
Mobile: +95 67 406248
For media-related matters, please contact:
Kyaw Kyaw Lwin
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT), Myanmar
Mobile: +95 9 43169660, +95 67 406061
Nira Gurung, ICIMOD
Phone: +977 01 5003222
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