Myanmar has endured a lot in recent history. A brutal military dictatorship, which transformed its robust postcolonial economy into one of Asia’s weakest and set in motion the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya Muslims ; the “8888 uprising”, a pro-democracy movement that catapulted the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi , into the spotlight but ultimately ended in a bloody coup, restoring isolationist military rule; and a subsequent transition towards civil authority – or something resembling democracy – with the government led by the NLD, although 25 per cent of seats in parliament are still held by a military that was found guilty of genocide in a United Nations report last year. Now the nation faces another challenge; one involving its fledgling tourism industry. In the early 2010s, the Southeast Asian nation was a picture of wide-eyed optimism as travel writers evangelised about the “land that time forgot” and kyat-rich arrivals streamed in to experience it, bringing hopes that tourism might help boost a weak economy. For the first half of the decade, everything seemed to be going according to plan, as international visitor numbers surged from 792,000 in 2010 to 4.7 million in 2015, according to CEIC Data. Tourism revenue followed the same trajectory. Then, in 2016, arrivals suddenly dropped to 2.9 million, a downturn of 38 per cent, amid political and economic concerns, as well as a lack of tourism management. The NLD had claimed a supermajority in the 2015 general election but the UN accused Myanmar’s troops of “ethnic cleansing”, as stories of gang rape, torture and murder – with the Rohingya as victims – began to emerge. Arrivals have since crept back up in number, but they remain well below their peak and Western tourists are staying away. In August last year, Suu Kyi addressed the National Tourism Industry Development Central Committee. Determined to convince her audience that a genocidal military campaign wasn’t to blame for the slump in sightseer numbers, she spoke instead of making visas easier and faster to obtain; of improving internal infrastructure; of catering to all budgets; of the implementation of Thai-style street-food stalls. The initiatives were aimed at attracting Asian adventurers and they appear to be working – well, kind of. Last month, speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, the deputy permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Hotels and Tourism Ministry, Hlaing Oo, said, “2019 is making a turnaround”. The politician claimed the final tally of visitors in the year was expected to top 6 million, largely because of an increase in travellers from China following a relaxation of visa regulations last October. As is often the case with arrivals from China, however, these ones have not been without controversy. On August 7, non-profit broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported that officials were worried Chinese sightseers were “endangering the country’s cultural heritage sites”. “Many of those who come from China are from low-income families, and so they don’t understand our dos and don’ts,” Yangon-based hotelier Soe Moe told the broadcaster. Some of those don’ts include touching or rubbing the jade carvings and walls at ancient attractions; smoking where it is forbidden to do so; leaving hotel rooms in disarray; and making a racket. “When they close the doors, they bang them,” said Soe. “Boom and bang.” According to a recent article in The Myanmar Times , the influx of Chinese has been accompanied by another unwelcome development: zero-dollar tours. These all-inclusive packages are popular with visitors from the Middle Kingdom for their affordability but they come with a catch – tourists are taken only to Chinese-owned businesses and are often strong-armed into buying overpriced souvenirs, the profits from which have “little or no benefit for the local economy”, Thant Zaw, vice-chair of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association for the Mandalay region, told Anadolu Agency. He added that transactions were often completed in yuan or through digital wallets such as WeChat and Alipay. Nevertheless, a senior tourism official, who spoke to the Turkish news agency on condition of anonymity, said there were no plans to take action against zero-dollar tour operators. For the time being, at least, the country seems content to accept all the arrivals it can get. Boracay beach closes after video shows tourist defecating in the sea Boracay is no stranger to closures, following a six-month shutdown last year designed to allow the Philippine island to recover from damage caused by too many tourists. Since reopening last October , visitor numbers have been limited and those who do come to frolic on its platinum sands are expected to stick to a number of rules. While it might be unwritten, passing stools straight into the sea is certainly among them. According to English-language newspaper The Philippine Star , authorities temporarily closed part of Boracay’s White Beach on August 14 after a video emerged showing two women and a child, believed to be foreign tourists, in shallow water. One of the women appears to encourage the child to do a “number two” in the ocean; the other buries a nappy in the sand. On August 18, the newspaper reported that the nappy had been discovered and that the water had been tested and was safe to swim in, although the offending tourists were unlikely to be identified. “We are happy that this is resolved and we can now bury this problem,” said environment undersecretary Benny Antiporda (no pun apparently intended), in a radio interview, while another environment official, Natividad Bernadino, called the incident a “wake-up call”. “We are planning to give pamphlets through the airline on dos and don’ts on the island, especially on the proper way to throw garbage and the policy against defecation on Boracay beach,” said Bernadino. Hopefully that should spell it out. Don’t. Poop. On. The. Beach. Dolphin death at Bali hotel sparks animal evacuation View this post on Instagram Evacuation of the animals at Hotel Melka in North Bali has started yesterday when the team conducted a health check on all the animals including 3 salt water crocodiles, a python, many birds and primates as well as porcupines. All animals were kept inside the horrible concrete damp outdated facilities. We assisted forestry department / BKSDA Bali to relocate all animals including the dolphins and we continue to monitor their health and welfare and plan for the best for the animals, meaning potential rehab and release back to the wild. Huge thanks to @kementerianlhk for taking this important step to relocate the animals to a better life and hopefully future rehabilitation and release! Huge thanks to @dolphin_project for all the support to fulfill this mission! We are keen to collaborate with out partners in this mission to enable rehab and release of the animals who have a chance to be freed again @wildlifeaidnetwork #melka #lovina #animalrescue #dolphinproject #crocodile #satwaliar #combatwildlifetrade #jakartaanimalaidnetwork see also blog in bio ————— Proses evakuasi hewan di Hotel Melka, Bali Utara telah dimulai kemarin saat tim kami melakukan tes kesehatan kepada 3 buaya muara , python, sejumlah burung dan primata dan landak. Semua hewan ini diletakkan di bangunan semen yang lembab dan kuno. Kami membantu pihak Departemen Kehutanan/BKSDA Bali dalam merelokasi seluruh hewan termasuk lumba-lumba dan kami terus memonitor kesehatan dan kesejahteraan mereka dan membuat rencana terbaik bagi hewan-hewan ini, seperti kemungkinan program rehabilitasi dan pelepasan kembali ke alam bebas. Terimakasih sebesar-besarnya kepada @kementrianlhk yang telah mengambil langkah penting dalam merelokasi hewan demi hidup mereka yang lebih baik dan juga selanjutnya untuk program rehabilitasi dan pelepasan! Terimakasih sebesar-besarnya kepada @dolphin_project atas dukungannya dalam menyelesaikan misi ini! A post shared by Otherwise Known as JAAN (@jakartaanimalaidnetwork) on Aug 6, 2019 at 6:07pm PDT After a dolphin died at a hotel in north Bali on August 3, the Indonesian island’s Natural Resources Conservation Centre (BKSDA) launched an investigation into the treatment of other animals in the property’s care, which included four other dolphins, three saltwater crocodiles, two leaf monkeys, snakes and porcupines, according to news site Coconuts. The property – identified in a merdeka.com report as the Melka Excelsior Hotel, which calls itself a “dolphin hotel” – has been marketing itself as “a very interesting animal theme park”, staging daily dolphin shows. However, the BKSDA and Jakarta Animal Aid Network found that the animals were being kept in “deplorable” conditions and said they were being evacuated. The hotel, which is reportedly “having problems with the bank right now”, holds a conservation permit that allows it to keep protected animals, although that is now likely to be revoked.