By Khin Maung (Hotels/Tourism)
A man by nature is a social animal and prefers living in a community to live in solitude. As an escape from stress encountered during daily struggles at work, the emotional strain of being in the working environment, and weariness born out of an uneasy employer-employee relationship at workplaces, we tend to go on vacation to places all over Myanmar during holidays or when we want to relieve work fatigue.
Some of the tours enticing those who travel the country are Myitsone in Kachin, Moe Bye dam in Shan, Zwekapin in Karen, Reed Lake in Chin, Kyaikhtiyo in Mon, MraukU in Rakhine, and Inle Lake in Shan. They would also include pilgrimage tours to such sacred pagodas as Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago, Myathalun Pagoda in Magway, Sun U Ponnyashin Pagoda in Sagaing, Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay, Dawei Shin Koe Shin Pagodas in Tanintharyi, Mawtinzun in Ayeyawady, and also recreational trips to such places as Indawgyi Lake in Kachin, Myeik Archipelago in Taninthayi, Ayeyawady Ngwesaung, Chaung Thar, and Ngapali in Rakhine.
As per their religious beliefs, these work-weary people would take short trips to destinations in adjacent towns and cities or longer tours, either in groups or individually, as a temporary getaway from their jobs to escape the workplaces’ emotional strain to refresh their tired hearts.
During these times, families, relatives, employees from government or private organizations, and people all over the world find themselves under the threat of Covid-19 disease: having to spend all day every day stuck in their homes all year round has led to hinder all-round development in economy, education, social affairs and politics. Facing difficulties in such daily social affairs as work opportunities, sources of income and business dealings, people lost the joy, freedom and peace they previously enjoyed, grew distrustful, hostile and impatient towards each other. Days turned to months and then into a year since animosity has taken the place of serenity in our daily lives: a cure has yet to be found; the void remains unfilled, and there is no escape in sight to a relaxed state of mind. With religious doctrines, all but forgotten, strained relationships, tension, and discord become the norm in our social life. As such, everyone — young and old — long to leave behind these times where we get through every day full of worry and misery.
Hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, tour guides, and people who make their living from services such as agriculture, livestock farming or meat shop businesses in tourist destinations, those who are in the land, water or air transport services for tourists, machinery, and other associated businesses are crucial factors in Myanmar tourism industry. These people, machines, meals and vegetable products, roads and bridges, and so on — which naturally shall be called infrastructural elements — and the people depending on them such as business owners, workers, and their families, all together make up quite a great percentage of the nation’s population undeniably being connected to the tourism industry. This enormous body of animate beings and inanimate objects is caught in exhaustion, with no way of escaping, and find themselves in a situation where it is difficult just to survive.
In search for a getaway with the recreation of a free and fair social environment in mind, one could go the way of obtaining the latest Covid-19 treatment drugs to help win the fight against the pandemic; visiting the Coronavirus-free regions; living with Covid-19 while totally mindful of its dangers and properly following the rules in place; or, just going on vacations come what may with no restraints, focusing solely on unwinding oneself. Among these many ways of escaping to relaxation, however, the route chosen should be that which is best for the people and their community. It is high time we started taking cautious, measured steps towards breathing life back into the tourism industry as soon as possible.
In preparation for kick-starting touring businesses, Covid-19 Relief Package (1) Tourism 101 Refresher Training Courses for the lower class people including those who make their living from providing transport services by motorboats, horse-carts, slow-moving vehicles, craftsmen, hawkers, and tray-vendors, all of whom are a part of the tourism industry in all states and regions where tourism business have been hit hard by Covid-19 and economy is in decline; and Covid-19 Relief Package (2) Hotel Services Refresher Training Courses for the hotel staff from respective Hotel Zones have been delivered, under the guidance of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, the supervision of Directorate of Hotels and Tourism, and the management of the departments concerned, with collaborated contribution from Myanmar Tour Guides Association, Myanmar Hotelier Association and Myanmar Hospitality Professionals Association. Likewise, ASEAN Standard Tour Guide Upgrading Course for the National Tour Guide training course has been launched as per the Covid-19 Relief Package (3).
Covid-19 Safe Service Master Trainer (TOT) courses have been opened in all states and divisions to produce trainers capable of delivering the required training, and evaluators, in implementing the Enchanting Myanmar Health and Protocol program for the post-Covid-19 resumption of the tourism industry. Trainers who have finished this TOT course have set up Replication Courses on Hazard Prevention in seven industries which are hotel and guesthouse businesses, restaurants, transport businesses, tour companies, tour guides, travel destinations and tourist attractions souvenir shops in concerned all states and divisions. A programme was implemented, during the launch of these courses, to provide stipends to instructors and students based on the number of hours spent teaching and studying respectively.
With participation from the Ministry of Health and Sports and the Hotels and Tourism associations, support from partner organizations, and the training engaged by trainers who have finished the Covid-19 Safe Service Master Trainer and Inspector Training courses, the Ministry is launching online educational programmes to spread knowledge about Hazard Prevention skills and the Dos and Don’ts that will be necessary when resuming the tourism industry and its associated businesses in the post-Covid-19 era.
In making a united effort with participation, collective analytical consultation and supervision from professionals from concerned fields, and with contributions of business owners and employees, we would need to work attentively and sensibly under the slogan “A rule followed is a danger avoided”, no matter what obstacle stands in the way, to revive our tourism industry. As we start these businesses, instead of letting the momentum immediately die out by overestimating our capabilities, we should have discussions and manage our efforts to minimize any disasters while launching these businesses. It should be a collaborative effort from all parties involved.
Since human beings who make their living from tourism, such as business owners, workers, and inanimate objects such as machinery, are profoundly awaiting new dawn when the tourism industry will again come to life, it is hereby advised to operate coordination and as per the Covid-19 regulations that are currently in place to bring about the revival of the tourism industry, so that we could use tourism to alleviate some difficulties faced by the local community, to work towards enlivening the slogan “Tourism for People, Tourism for Peace, Tourism for Development”, for the purpose of utilizing tourism to strengthen the nation and to achieve national development.