Should I travel to Burma (Myanmar)?
Burma is a country with a difficult and complex recent history and we are often asked by concerned clients whether it is right or safe for them to travel there. Although this is ultimately a personal decision, we hope the information in this blog will help when making a decision.
After many years of political isolation and repressive government policies, Burma began to open its doors to the world in 2010. As the government shifted towards a more democratic stance, tourists were welcomed back by opposition leaders and invited to discover the many cultural and natural delights of Burma and to bring a much needed economic boost to the country and its people.
We responded to the call by introducing holidays to Burma for the very first time, but only on the premise that we worked with private individuals and companies whenever possible; minimising direct financial support to the military regime and supporting the local people. Burma quickly became one of our most popular destinations with visitors eager to see the fabled sights of Bagan, Mandalay, Rangoon, Inle Lake and the Irrawady River.
The political situation though remained complex and fragile, and in 2017 a violent policy of ethnic cleansing of the minority Rohinghya Mulims was implemented by the government in Rakhine State in western Burma. Although events have now left the front pages and the situation appears to have stabilised somewhat (although not resolved), it has once again raised the dilemma for tourists of whether to visit Burma, even though there is no official tourism boycott.
From a safety perspective, the FCO Travel Advice only advises against all but essential travel to Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States. The main tourist centres remain safe, open and unaffected.
Ethically, though, the decision to travel is far more complex. It is one we have grappled with ourselves as a company, but after much deliberation we have decided to continue offering holidays to Burma. Although we condemn the terrible actions of the government and military, we wish to continue to support the Burmese people. Over the last few years we have built excellent relationships and friendships with our partners in Burma who have always given our clients the warmest of welcomes and unfailing good service. We also include visits to families, villages and communities in our itineraries, thereby bringing direct economic benefit to the locals. By withdrawing from Burma, it is undoubtedly these people that will suffer, not the government.
We also believe that travel encourages us to engage with others, share ideas and values, gain a truer insight into difficult situations and to go beyond the headlines to discover all sides of the story. Hopefully this in turn brings understanding and openness.
Burma is a fabulous country with a rich cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes, a fascinating and complex history and wonderfully friendly, generous people. If you decide you would like to visit, then we would be delighted to introduce you.
Take a look at our Burma holidays or speak to one of our travel experts if you would like to discuss any concerns.