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Tea Leaves

Myanmar tourism -- to go or not to go?

Once-thriving adventure travel sector struggles under military regime

Waterfall jumping in Myanmar's Shan state: Even for responsible tourists, there is a grave issue of principle at stake. (Photo by Sai James)

On Feb. 1, 2021, I received two important bits of news: The first was that 10 inflatable kayaks ordered from China for my new water sports tour business had arrived safely in Yangon. The second was that Myanmar's military had seized power, ousting the elected National League for Democracy and ushering in chaos, instability and violence. My kayaking company was dead on arrival, and future prospects for adventure tourism in Myanmar were decidedly bleak.

In May 2022, after sealing the country amid pandemic and security issues, the Myanmar authorities started reissuing tourist visas. Unsurprisingly, the number of travelers signing up for adventure tours is very low. There is still adventure to be had in Myanmar, even if it is mostly of the wrong kind. But the real question is not whether adventure seekers are heading to Myanmar -- they are not -- but should they go at all?

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