The tourist police will verify whether tourists are hiring local tour guides or not, said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo, the Yangon Region Minister for Kayin Ethnic Affairs and the vice-chairperson of the Regional Tourism Committee.
“Although Myanmar has made it mandatory for tourists to hire local guides, tourists are only using guides from their own country. Those guides may misrepresent Myanmar culture. Additionally, this may lead to lack of jobs for local guides. So, the tourist police will now check whether local guides are being hired,” she added.
“We have already issued instructions to police to ensure that tourists hire local tour guides. We have often found that local guides are being hired by tourists, but English guides are being hired for Chinese tourists. Local guides are not getting jobs as tourists are only using guides from their own country. Therefore, we need to resolve the issue. We need to keep a check on this at the entry gates,” said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.
“To check tour destinations, such as Shwedagon pagoda and Botahtuang pagoda, the tour police can screen QR codes from tour guides’ ID cards, which are issued to them on hand-phones. Thus, the tourist police can determine whether they are local guides or not. So, we have already made arrangements for the tour police to use technology to check whether tourists are hiring local tour guides or not. For this, the tourist police will have to undergo training next month,” she added.
If the tourist police find the policy is being disobeyed, the local agent, who tied up with the tour company, will face legal action, said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.
Currently, Chinese tourists are opting for cheap tour packages offered by Chinese tour agencies, which are also known as zero dollar or zero budget tours. But, they are being asked to buy jade lots at set shops, she said.
Myanmar receives US$50 per person from Chinese tourists for issuing visas. The tourists are spending a minimum of $60 per day. Local tour companies hire entire hotels and restaurants for zero budget tours, in cooperation with Chinese tour companies. As a result, the enterprises make money, while the government loses out on income.
At present, most of the tourists entering Myanmar are from China. Between January and July, 2018, more than 640,000 tourists visited Yangon. During the same period this year, the number of tourists crossed 740,000, said U Naing Win, the director of the the Yangon Region Directorate of Hotels and Tourism.
Earlier, the hotels and tourism sector was regulated by the Union government. After the implementation of the Myanmar Tourism Law 2018, the sector has been decentralized and power has been devolved to the region and state governments, said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.
Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein is the chairman of the regional tourism committee. The committee also includes officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Yangon City Development Committee, the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, and Civil Society Organizations as members.
By Nyein Nyein(Translated by Hay Mar)