Economic Promotion of Inle Communities through cultural and natural heritage valorization

Following the process of gradual opening of the country, started in 2010 and still ongoing, Myanmar is going through fundamental economic, political and social changes, with some industries substantially growing and significant opportunities opening. Decades of stagnation, inefficient management and isolation have slowed down economic growth for a country ranked 150 on the Human Development Index (HDI), and a 26% of people living below the poverty line. Scarce employment opportunities and poor wages are bound to remain primary concerns also in the medium term, due to population growth rates and high numbers of youths (almost 25% of people is under 15) entering the labor market in the next years.
An important process of reforms has been started in order to improve economic and social conditions, also supporting the development of new industries. Among these, tourism is certainly a major intervention axis and has become a major strategic industry for the country, with significant increase of visits and huge economic potential, risen from 762,547 international visits in 2009 to 1,058,995 in 2012 and over 3 million in 2015. On the other hand, such growth rates, if not properly managed, might have negative impacts in the medium-long term on local economies, cultures and biodiversity.

The project intervention is based on the interrelation between different sectors in order to create the conditions for sustainable development to valorise the tourism potential of the territory, notably in the local context: the Inle Lake area.
Inle Lake is the second largest natural lake in Myanmar and a major tourist destination of the country, with a number of visitors increased from 20,000 in 2009 to 110,000 in 2014, and a forecast of 200,000 in 2020. While the development of tourism opens substantial opportunities for economic growth, the benefits for residents are limited and the threatens to the ecosystems are rapidly increasing.
The project is therefore aimed to contribute to the preservation and valorization of the material and non-material heritage of Inle Lake, as the engine of local economic development, by a bottom-up approach based on the participation of local communities and the private sector.

  • Local communities and civil society organizations of 20 villages of Inle Lake.
  • Private tourist operators: hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and tourist guides, mainly in the town of Niang Shew and to a lesser extent in lakeside locations.
  • Local authorities: Townships of Taunggyi and Niang Shew; the local offices of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and the Ministry of Environment; the Inle Lake Authority.

Expected results

  • Developed income-generating activities for local communities, matching economic development with sustainable use of the natural and cultural heritage
  • Improved the offer of services provided by private operators in a perspective of environmental sustainability and responsible tourism.
  • Enhanced cooperation between key actors (public and private bodies, civil society) to implement local policies for participated and sustainable management of natural and cultural resources.