Social Enterprise in Myanmar: Our Story

Three Treasures is a locally-owned, western-managed social enterprise created to promote sustainable tourism and improve local livelihoods in Myanmar.  This isn’t just empty talk or a company policy. We work closely with our founding non-profit, Myanmar SEEDS, to re-invest our tour income in community projects in Bagan. On our tours you will see firsthand the projects supported by your tour fees.   

Founders Ian Hayes and Thandar Oo met at the Bagan market in early 2016. Ian was starting up his nonprofit Myanmar SEEDS after completing a masters degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management in the U.S. Thandar was working on community-based tourism projects for JICA, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

Together we started Three Treasures Responsible Tourism in Bagan in early 2016. Our mission promotes sustainable tourism and improved local livelihoods in Myanmar. Soon after, we founded “Hoya House” as our operations base and training center. This small local compound with demonstration gardens is situated in the forcibly-relocated community of New Bagan.  The goal of the center is to promote organic gardening practices and better nutrition in the local community.

Responsible Travel for Change

As we sought out the most secret and fascinating locations around Bagan for our guests, we were slowly accepted into the community. We developed close ties with temple caretakers, local farmers, artisans, and other social and environmentally-conscious people in the area. In this way, we share the best of Burmese culture and traditions with our guests through responsible travel in Bagan.

In order to spread the benefits of tourism directly with local communities, we began to collaborate with these communities to create authentic experiences for visitors that also respect and engage with local culture. Over time, our local friends have come to understand our work and participate more closely in our projects and tour activities. We now have many local artisans, monks, farmers, and others involved in our tours and projects. We encourage our guests to slow down and see more in greater detail. 

Social Enterprise in Bagan

Our social enterprise offers a range of tourism activities and experiences in Bagan that are unique in Myanmar, such as meditation, cooking, crafting, farm tours, and photography tours and workshops

We work together with residents, farmers and craftsmen in local villages in the Bagan area to collaboratively. This allows us to develop unique and responsible travel experiences and activities for visitors that support community dignity, values, and development goals. As a result, this builds the capacity of locals to participate in the tourism economy as interest in Myanmar grows.

Why Social Enterprise?

Inclusive Tourism Needed in Bagan

Three Treasures Responsible Tourism & Trading is the first social enterprise of its kind in Bagan. We are a local social business working together with local communities in and around the protected monument zone to develop the capacity of local people to increase their benefits from the increasing numbers of tourists arriving each year.

Unfortunately, most local people do not share the benefits of tourism to Bagan. Despite the buses of tourists that may pass through during the high season, many do not work directly in the tourism industry with its relatively high salaries of around $120 USD per month, the national minimum wage. Women are often excluded from the formal labor market entirely, while children are left to beg or sell postcards to earn money to pay their school fees.

As we witnessed the often strained interactions between awkward, camera-ready tourists and shy but amused locals, we saw an opportunity to bring new experiences to the tourism market in Bagan. Immersive activities that allowed locals to share their skills and ways of life with visitors on an eye-to-eye level, preserving their dignity and self-respect by allowing them to earn their own livelihoods in new, positive ways. The villages and local communities directly benefit from our tours through training, fair-paying jobs and contributions to community-priority funds.

We work closely together with Myanmar SEEDS, a Swiss non-profit dedicated to sustainably improving the livelihoods of Myanmar’s most disenfranchised. Together we develop and offer training to local villagers, especially women, in English, photography, guiding skills, crafting, recycling/up-cycling and organic gardening. The goal if this cooperation is to develop a shared training infrastructure that will benefit stakeholders by creating new income opportunities through social enterprise for participants as well as new products and market access for their cultural and environmental assets.

Please join us on our journey by supporting responsible and sustainable tourism in Myanmar.