Just 5 years ago it would have seemed beyond belief, beyond border approvals, beyond principle.

And then the world changed – Myanmar (Burma)’s doors of possibility – politically, economically, logistically, philosophically – were thrown open. For millions around the world, never in their lifetime did they expect to see the day that Aung San Suu Kyi would walk through her front door as a free woman. And for millions of travellers, never did they think they would be able to walk through Myanmar’s front door as a warmly welcomed visitor.

Yet today, just a matter of a 5 short years later, it is all possible.

And at this moment, it is happening with accelerated momentum and elevated excitement.

This week the ASEAN region’s leaders in tourism gather in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s capital, for the 2015 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF – http://www.atf-2015.com/). Ten economies making up one of the powerful growing regions in the world. Through the presence of the highest level of VVIP leadership from across the region – Hon. Ministers of Tourism from Thailand, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Laos, Indonesia and India, along with Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and others from across the region, accompanied by the UNWTO, WTTC and PATA, the future of regional tourism will be shaped.

Together they unite as leaders working in unity for collective, cooperative ASEAN growth and development rather that competition.

And together, they make clear their welcome Myanmar as one of the ASEAN community, one more nation and destination to benefit from the exemplary ‘all for one’ approach of ASEAN.

For all VVIP attendees at ATF – heads of tourism authorities, Government leaders in tourism, global and regional tourism bodies –  this year’s annual reunion of tourism leaders will be, as always, an opportunity to advance discussions and commitments around tourism sector enablement and empowerment. It will be a chance to check in with one’s neighbours, reflecting on the year just past, sharing insights, learnings, and personal favourite stories. Within professional associations and collaborations, personal relationships are embedded. It will also be, as always, a chance to recalibrate and ready for all that is ahead, defining opportunities, deciding shared programmes, and detailing areas of caution.

And yet, permeating through this year’s ATF will no doubt be, for all attendees across all elves and ASEAN nations, a quiet yet powerful sense of “We are in Myanmar!”

This deeply personal, yet collectively shared, sense of awe is what should always be paused, always be absorbed, never be forgotten.

The world in which we live today, as wide and fragmented and challenged and stuck and overwhelming as it may appear at times,  is changing every single moment. With these changes, doors are opening, eyes are opening, minds are opening, and hearts are opening!

We are here!

And because of this, our world is a place of blessed awe!



Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015