The Talk

Peter Richards

Peter Richards, Consultant on Cultural Tourism Development and Market Access

Name: Peter Richards
Hometown: Espom, Surrey, UK
Job: Consultant on Cultural Tourism Development and Market Access

What are your thoughts on the state of tourism in Myanmar at the moment?

A lot of really excellent, fun, inspiring, cross-cultural experiences have been developed in Myanmar, and many more are in the pipeline. For example, community based tourism programs. On the ‘for improvement end', there is a need for more, and better coordinated destination planning, for example to help balance supply and demand planning. Hotel prices will have to go down a bit, or Myanmar will simply loose opportunities to competing countries where you get more for less.

What changes would you like to see going forward?

We need to recognize, share and build on examples of existing, good examples of responsible and inclusive tourism in Myanmar. This is already happening in some cases. The more our industry learns from useful work which has already been done, the better. Teamwork which blends international skills and experience and local skills and insight, with mutual respect, is a good foundation for success during this stage of tourism development in Myanmar.

How can travellers be more community/culturally-sensitive in their travels?

Most travelers do not want to see tourism as an 'industry.' However, with thousands of travelers heading to the same destinations, we are rarely on a unique journey. Our 'snapshot' of experience is part of an ongoing, movie of experience for destinations. The choices we make do contribute directly towards positive and negative impacts. Choosing to use a professional tour operator with a commitment to responsible tourism helps to support a better tourism industry in Myanmar. If communities have local tour guides, or offer community based services, please respect this effort and use local services.

What do you love about your job?

Working with effort, love and hope alongside rural villagers, tour operators, government and NGO professionals towards a better tourism industry, which benefits local people and the environment. I love playing a part giving people who were born thousands of miles apart the chance to sit on the floor, share food and get to know each other a little. We can't wait for politicians in air conditioned conference halls to create a culture of peace. Better to do it ourselves, people to people.

What do you hate about your job?

Nothing. I am very lucky. I appreciate that my amazing wife and children are understanding and support the time I have to spend in the field.

Tell us about a magical Myanmar moment you've had?

There are so many. Seeing the first rays of golden sunlight touch the Shwedagon pagoda at sunrise... Climbing to the top of a sacred, forest mountain with the flamboyant Kayaw, who are like forest super heroes... they know everything about forest foods and medicines. Being able to work with teams of Myanmar and international colleagues, dealing with challenges from the field to tourism fairs is a huge privilege which I appreciate very deeply. Thank-you everyone.  

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