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16 Jun, 2014

Young Myanmar female hotelier wows MTF with passionate, powerful presentation

MANDALAY – Young Myanmar business leader Yin Myo Su, owner and initiator of Thahara Inle Heritage hotel on the shores of Inle Lake, was one of the “next generation” leaders to speak at the Mekong Tourism Forum. It was a powerful, passionate speech, an expression of both fear at the pace of change but also hope and confidence that Myanmar will be able to learn from other people’s mistakes.


She said: “Yes, we have challenges. Everyone in this room know that irresponsible development can harm all kind of heritages. It definitely is not an easy task for our government as well as for the communities. However, I am convinced that there are many opportunities for us in Myanmar, a country like a young beautiful girl coming out of a convent/nunnery, she may make some mistakes but we hope that they won’t be extreme and that she will learn from them.”

The full text of her speech, as delivered verbatim and written in her own way, warts and all, is reproduced here. It deserves to be read and studied by students of travel & tourism all over Asia because, as she said, the “our future is in our hand and we got to shape it the way we want to leave it.”


Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My name is Yin Myo Su and I am very honored to present small pilot projects that my team and I did since 2009 in Inle Lake in Southern Shan State.

I was invited by Mr. Mason Florence in May 2011 to attend to my very first Mekong Tourism Forum in Pakse in Laos where I presented my first little project call “Inthar Heritage House” where we do preservation and conservation of tangible and tangible heritage of my region. It was also the first time in my life to get a chance to present proudly a project that is dear to my heart. Thank you again to give me today another chance to share with you what we did since the last Mekong Tourism Forum that I attended 3 years ago.

After I did the Inthar Heritage House, I founded the Inle Heritage Foundation since a couple of months. I funded and founded this foundation because I belong to Inthar tribe that live on and around Inle Lake. I was born, grew up, learn and make a living in my native land. ln my heart I knew that Inle Lake might also be my graveyard!

I believe that I had received so much from my family and community. Now that my country is opening up, I trust that it is time for me to full-fill my life purpose which is transmit to the next generation, the knowledge, culture and natural heritage what I had received from my ancestors.

The aim of our foundation is very high because the needs of the lake community are big and challenging. The environment of Inle Lake is beautiful but very fragile due to the deforestation, diminishment of water catchment areas, enlargement of the population and lack of waste management, development of tourism industry, intensive grown of agriculture on floating gardens due again to lack of alternative business solutions and life skills of the local community.

Since 5 years, Inthar Heritage House, now Inle Heritage Foundation, mainly focus on preservation, conservation and promotion of local culture and tradition as well as environment awareness through, food, traditional cooking experience and classes, arts and crafts souvenir shops, introduction of Burmese cats, an aquarium with collection of endemic fishes of Inle Lake, water data collection to regularly record water quality of Inle Lake, water distribution for the surrounding village, which is much in need during the dry season, a sample project of waste water management through a natural wetland system, good agriculture practices through our farming pilot project…etc.

In 2012, I had visited some organizations such as Sala-Bai, Friends International, Paul Dubrue in Cambodia and Shwe Sa Bwe in Yangon. I was very inspired by their work and dedication. In a way, conservation/preservation will be incomplete without sharing knowledge to the next generation as well. So, last year in January 2013, I decided to build a vocational training center in hospitality in which we have aims to transmit a life skill for 40 students per year.

So allow me here to explain a little about this Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training Center which is a life skill-learning center with the goal of preparing young adults of the Inle Lake community for careers in the hospitality industry. Students complete a 10-month training course in a major hospitality subject (food and beverage production, food and beverage service, front office and reservation, housekeeping and laundry) as well as English training, Basic IT and Computer Skills, Rights (such as Civil, Human, Employee, Gender), General Knowledge of Cultural, Natural and Environmental Issues, Personal Skills (such as Budgeting, Ethical Business Practices, Hygiene & Health, Story Telling, Stress Management), Sport and Recreation…etc.

The school serves “Thahara Inle Heritage”, a fully functional mockup hotel, featuring 6 guest bungalows. In addition to their academic study, students also complete practical training, which represent 70% of their studies time, every day in their major hospitality subject. Front office students take reservations and work guests through the check-in/out cycle, while food and beverage students prepare and serve the guest’s meals. They also have to do a month internship in hotels round Myanmar.

We just celebrate the first “Graduation Ceremony” of the Class of 2014, for 42 students on 30th May. We had a great encouragement from our Hotel and Tourism Ministry and our minister, H.E U Htay Aung. We had a job fair at the school a couple days before the graduation ceremony and we are confirmed that all our students will going have a job for coming season. My team, the trainers and I are very proud of their accomplishment.

Some of these projects such as Inthar Heritage House Restaurant, souvenir shop and Thahara Inle Heritage mockup hotel are manage as social business because I want my foundation to be self sustain and be financially independent for long-term. Our centre used to have more than 2,300 visitors when we first opened in October 2010. However, nowadays we are hosting nearly 15,000 visitors per year. So it’s allow us to generate our won revenue and today we are not yet 100% sufficient however we covering 60% of our running cost of their foundation and it’s projects.

Here, I want to give a couple of minutes to present you Thahara Inle Heritage mockup hotel.

While my country is opening up and whenever I go to forums, conferences across Asia, people talk about my country as the last frontier, which by the way, I am very proud and positive. However, sometime I am scare. Why? For me, simply because we never had experience whatever is happening nowadays in Myanmar. We have much to learn from others. So much to coop up and up date ourselves in terms of knowledge, experiences, infrastructures, laws …. Well everyone seems to know the opportunities as well as our challenges. In the mean time, we cannot just sit and not prepare our self because I truly trust that our future is in our hand and we got to shape it the way we want to leave it to the future generations.

When you look at the big companies and their ways of branding and marketing, I envy them (well not all of what they do sometime). However, there are many good points that we should learn from them and consider to use to improve, brand and market our self as well. We may be inexperienced and small but we are local and we still have in our DNA, true authenticity. If we trust and value our roots, origins and if we work as hard as the big companies or bands do, I am sure, we can have a chance to improve our life, our children life, our people life and build up the new prosperous Myanmar.

After all we are talking about a second largest country of South East Asia with 60 millions people living in it and there is space for the big companies as well as the small ones. Plus I learnt that from SME, we could create up to 60 – 70% of employments across different industries sectors. I do think there are solutions. Solutions are in people who can make good living without having to migrate to the big cities.

So here come another little project again (yes, I do love little project because I think it is heart catching)

What is Thahara?

Thahara (meaning Friendship) is an exciting new way to allow visitors to experience the “real” Myanmar. We are creating a network of unique places to stay and experience the authenticity of our unique culture and natural. Our slogan is “share our world” as we want visitors to enjoy experiences, stories and memories.

Each member property of Thahara network features a local host, often the owner with deep connections and insights of his/her region. Thahara properties are small – as few as 5 rooms – offering exquisite comfort and intimacy. Each property unique: designed and built to be sustainable and in keeping with its surrounds.

Why creating Thahara?

I want to make sustainable tourism a reality for local people and overseas visitors. My goal is a network of wonderful properties, often in out of the way locations, that are hosted by local families who are making a proper living from sharing the unique aspects of their villages and neighborhoods. For visitors, I want Thahara to be an assurance of quality both in the unique experiences they enjoy but also in the international standards of accommodation and facilities on offer.

How does Thahara work?

Thahara works on two levels: on one level as a marketing and booking platform offering ease of access and convenient booking. On the other level, Thahara is a way for local people to create their own international-standard hospitality businesses welcoming visitors, sharing their worlds.

I see Thahara as a local ambassador brand; creating and encouraging the network. Most properties will be owned and operated independently, by special people with special properties, whether small hotels or resorts, or even in undeveloped land. If they share my vision of creating something special – and are willing to create accommodation, facilities and experiences that are truly special – then we’ll invite them to join the Thahara network.

Is Thahara a franchise?

Thahara is network of like-minded people who share my vision of creating truly sustainable tourism in Myanmar. For me, sustainable tourism means local people have the opportunity to earn a proper living in ways that celebrate and protect our — their — heritage, their resources, and their environment. That’s one reason why building and operating a Thahara property involves local people, materials and artisans, consideration for the environment, as well as for things like organic foods, recycling, re-using waste, and rainwater harvesting.

We market Thahara as a single platform whether with travel companies around the world or directly through our booking platform. This means members of the Thahara network don’t have to rely on marketing themselves. However they can be visible in the market and be competitive to the big brand and get a good share in this development pie of tourism industry.

Is Thahara started operating yet?

Yes, we have. Our first property is Thahara Inle Heritage where we have six bungalows perched on stilts above the lake. It was built using hardwood and bamboo. It’s service (as I mentioned before) not only by staff but also by students from the Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training Centre that we have established. Our second one is due to open soon in Pindaya region.

Meanwhile, our roll out is starting. We are talking with agents and bookers and we have a fabulous web site at thahara.com. I am meeting and encouraging Independent owner operators to join our Thahara network. We hope to have several properties up and running across Myanmar over the next 12 months.

I will consider that my work and projects are successful if one day someone, somewhere in the country is duplicating similar projects. Until then, we have to keep trying hard, inspired, convinced other and be useful.

To conclude this presentation, yes, we have challenges. Everyone in this room know that irresponsible development can harm all kind of heritages. It definitely is not an easy task for our government as well as for the communities. However, I am convinced that there are many opportunities for us in Myanmar, a country like a young beautiful girl coming out of a convent/nunnery, she may make some mistakes but we hope that they won’t be extreme and that she will learn from them.

Personally, I think too many worry is not very progressive, even to do improvements. So I think best way in our private sector still is try whatever we can, learn from other peoples’ mistakes, be prepared, take any kind of opportunities we can by cherishing our roots/heritage and build trust/self confidence to maximise improvements for our people and country to become a better/prosperous place to live among other Mekong region countries.

I would like to take a chance to thanks again to my mentors, my partners, my team and my family with this presentation as without them, I won’t be able to accomplish this far. I hope that I will be able to give a new exciting presentation or better results by next Mekong Tourism Forum.

Thank you very much for your kind attention. If you have any questions, I would like to answer for a couple of minutes.

See the slideshow of her presentation here:

Download (PDF, 10.83MB)