Skip to main content

Researchers explore sustainable tourism opportunities in Burma

February 25, 2013

A team of researchers from ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development is examining strategies to support Burma in efforts to increase the involvement of local communities in the tourism value chain, contribute to the local economy and impact poverty reduction among local citizens.

Burmese democracy advocate Zin Mar Aung met with Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs, and faculty experts in sustainable tourism Feb. 15 to discuss ways in which university partnerships can build momentum toward eco-tourism in Burma. Representatives from the Thunderbird School of Global Management also participated in the discussions.

With an increasing number of tourists, slowly emerging reforms and numerous possibilities, sustainable tourism has significant potential as an economic driver for growth in Burma.

“Developing partnerships that will support the Burmese people and enable an environment for trade and investment is a national priority for the United States,” Koppell said.

“ASU is uniquely positioned to make an impact in these endeavors. The college is privileged to have had the chance to spend significant time with Zin Mar Aung and benefit from her expertise as we explore and identify opportunities to accelerate social and economic development in Burma,” he added.  

Aung is a former political prisoner, imprisoned for 11 years because of her involvement in Burma’s pro-democracy movement. Since her release in 2009, she has continued to dedicate her life to promoting democracy, women’s empowerment and conflict resolution in Burma. Her efforts have included creating and leading a self-help association for female ex-political prisoners, and teaching at a political science school in Rangoon, Burma. In 2012, she received the U.S. Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage.

Aung’s visit to the College of Public Programs and the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law was part of an intensive program of meetings, seminars and roundtable discussions organized by ASU’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. She is a member of a larger delegation that visited Washington, D.C., New York, Dallas and the Phoenix metro area with the intent to broaden Burma’s network of supporters in the United States and explore opportunities for collaboration with U.S. organizations, including ASU. 

“Strategic public-private partnerships that aid in addressing human rights issues and finding solutions for the aging infrastructure and shortage in hotels and guest rooms in the area could provide an important first step toward developing a sustainable and socially responsible tourism sector within the country,” said Kathleen Andereck, director of the School of Community Resources and Development.

In 2011, nearly 400,000 travelers visited Burma. “With this in mind, increasing the number of tourists from large neighboring countries such as Thailand and the surrounding region could contribute significantly to the Burmese economy, lifting prosperity and benefiting local citizens and communities,” Andereck said.