Digital lifeline for post-conflict Myanmar, with a little help from CBI
Bringing stability and opportunity to regions that have a recent history of conflict is a challenging proposition. Such regions may have complex tribal structures and lack of physical and digital infrastructure. However, there are examples of successful initiatives, one of which is the ‘Enchanting Myanmar Inclusive Tourism Project 2018-2021’, run by CBI.
The project, which is carried out in cooperation with the International Trade Centre (ITC), involves the establishment and roll-out of community-based tourism. This helps lead to greater social and cultural insights amongst visitors to the region. It also helps local communities to become aware of the commercial and intellectual opportunities their culture has to offer. The result is increased awareness and buy-in to conservation measures established to protect this cultural heritage. In post-conflict Myanmar, community-based tourism plays a key role in establishing stability in the region. It encourages contact between the tens of different local tribes and tourists. This helps in maintaining discussions amongst the different groups and stakeholders. Furthermore, the profits from responsible tourism benefit the entire community.
One of the companies participating in the project and making good ground is Wazo Travels – a small company founded in 2010. Wazo developed a niche market by providing cultural and artistic tours for visitors. Key to the development of the tourism sector in the region is online and digital marketing. CBI made this a core element of the Enchanting Myanmar project, providing knowledge transfer and training on website development and digital marketing. CBI also provided guidance on implementing these new skills. Many of the tour operators found it hard to analyze and identify USPs (unique selling points) for their business. As this was a basic element in helping to decide on their business strategy, CBI provided advice during this critical phase.
When developing their tourism products, the various operators were also encouraged to ‘find their EU niche’. Niche marketing leads to differentiation. Having a unique product is essential – otherwise, there would be numerous tour operators all selling the same experience and thus overcrowding the market.
Wazo Travels grasped the importance of digitization early on. With the help of CBI, they identified a growing market in art tours and outdoor drawing and painting and set about targeting the ‘art traveller’ segment. This took the form of art tours/workshops at various locations in Myanmar. Key to Wazo’s success was the understanding and application of digital marketing, online presence/advertising and social media. Other companies within the project choose other specific niches such as Sportfishing, or LGBT interests.
Wazo opted for a ready-made web-based solution. For a monthly fee, a web provider provided a ready-made template. This meant that Wazo did not have to go through the whole process of creating a website with a designer. This cost-effective solution is perfect for small businesses and was the ideal solution. They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, and by making good use of photographic material Wazo succeeded in communicating a clear vision of what its Art Tours involved - a key factor in attracting new customers.
Although the company is just beginning to approach the European marketplace, it has already built up considerable experience in the Japanese market. Renowned for demanding standards and good organization, the Japanese customers have been very satisfied with Wazo’s services. Working together with a Japanese business partner, and with a Japanese-language website, around 90% of the company’s business is generated via the web. Applying these same practices and standards to the European market should be relatively straightforward, as the basic principles of service and quality are the same.
Art of business
The tours help customers to learn and understand various aspects of the art and culture of Myanmar and specific regions. Visitors get to meet local artisans and craftspeople and creating artworks themselves. This strategy is proving to be a successful approach. Through their online presence and digital marketing techniques, Wazo is proving that, with a little outside help, new frontiers can be reached. This helps them to grow their business, preserve local culture and create employment in a responsible, smart and sustainable manner.
Find here more information about the Myanmar Tourism Development Project.