CNI News

7 Mar 2023

Tourist guides in Myanmar have been forced to work as private business owners, company staff and online shopping service providers, tourist guides and tour operators told the CNI.

Tourist guides have been forced to change their carrier since the outbreak of COVID-19 in April, 2020, when tour operations stopped and the current political changes, according to tourist guides.

Ma Theint, who stopped working as tourist guide in April, 2020 and set up a private business, told the CNI that there are differences between the two carriers.

She said, "Private businesses depend on our own abilities to conduct business. As I have set up a food stall, I need to sell products as well as provide services. I have to maintain the quality of food and think about the product line to produce similar products. Another part is service, I have to provide better services. It is quite different from the previous career. The sustainability of our private businesses depends on us. As a tourist guide, my company had to solve all the problems caused by me. I could only be fired from the job."

She added that she is interested in tourism and she aims to resume a tourist guide career when inbound tourism has recovered in Myanmar.

As inbound tourism has halted, not only tour guides but also tour agencies are encountering crises, Chairman U Zaw Zaw of the Shan State (North) Hoteliers Association told the CNI.

 A tourist guide conducting a tour for foreign tourists.

He said, "Some tour agencies have not renewed their licences since the outbreak of COVID-19. The number of such agencies have increased. They are still struggling to resume their operations. Tourist guides have changed careers. The main reason is that tourist arrivals have dropped. Some companies cannot survive. They try to invite foreign tourists but the tourists do not want to visit Myanmar. Those who visit Myanmar at present are business people. Therefore, tourist guides have faced challenges. It is a hard time for them."

Therefore, hoteliers and tour operators are conducting language courses for tour guides.

Loss of human resources in the tourism sector has an impact on the sector, a tour entrepreneur told the CNI.

He said, "This is a huge loss. When foreign tourists resume visiting Myanmar and the market has recovered, we can hire tour guides. However, competent staff at huge hotels have gone to work abroad. Some of them have returned to their native towns and villages. They will not be able to return to work immediately. Tourism depends not only on the ability to learn foreign languages but also on the experience of guides. We trained tourist guides in 1993 and the training programs gained momentum in the 2000s. Then, tourists did not come to Myanmar due to demonstrations from 2007 to 2009 and Cyclone Nargic. When tourists resumed visiting Myanmar in 2012, we faced shortages of tour guides."

Although tourism in neighbouring Thailand has recovered, Myanmar tour agencies are still relying on domestic tourism.

Enormous efforts are needed to make for the development of inbound tourism in Myanmar and there are many challenges, according to tour entrepreneurs.