EXCLUSIVE Interview with Mister Tourism World, Okkar Min Maung Pt1

Sashes&Scripts recently had a one-on-one interview with the reigning Mister Tourism World, Okkar Min Maung from Myanmar and had an interesting time talking with him about his journey to the title.

How has it been since you won Mister Tourism World last year, any notable experience so far since winning?
It has been great. My life has changed in so many ways. I am really grateful for that. I am the third person who had won the international pageant in my country. I am very honoured and blessed to have won this prestigious title for my beloved country, and of course for my beloved fans. It is definitely one of the best things that have ever happened in my life. Many had been hoping for me to win the title ever since I announced to public about this. I believe winning this title will help me reach my future goals and make dramatic changes in my career. I would like to use my voice to influence the new generation for positive outcome. I want to help them, motivate them, inspire them and I want to stand up as a great role model to them. I am very grateful that I have the support and appreciation from my fans. I believe my hard work and good preparation paid off. It wasn’t easy to win. I had to pass through a lot of challenges, interviews with Filipino media and journalists, Q&A with Students from Northern University of Philippines, doing speeches for Tourism Forum, tourism exhibition and other activities coordinating with different kinds of people when I was in Philippines. I can say for sure that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Now, I need to be more responsible to fulfill my duties during my reign. Being the first winner in MTW org history, I want to make sure that I have made dramatic changes in many positive ways for the society as a bright leader and a great ambassador. I also would like to promote tourism factors in various ways and accomplish other humanitarian works. My schedule has been crazy busy since I had won. I participated and was being interviewed by many of the TV programs and talk shows in Myanmar as well as the ones from Philippines and plenty of magazines and journals. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to share my experiences regarding this competition. I am very grateful that I can make my country, my parents and family proud.

Last year you were easily the favourite to win the title, but did you ever had any doubts about winning the title?
I had doubts even though I was well prepared and confident with myself. All of the representatives are very talented and smart. They did their best for their countries. They were really amazing to be honest. We became very close to each other’s like brothers within a few days. Since then, I didn’t even feel like competing anymore. Pageant makes me feel like all contestants have become united. They all are well deserved to win. I prepared myself for the best and worst outcome for this competition. I was ok with whatever future was going to bring me. I have never won first prize in my life. I’ve competed in 2 local pageants when I was young but I didn’t win. I have lost a lot of chances and opportunities in my life and I learned not to take anything for granted from the past experiences. I also learned that opportunities never come twice. No matter what the experiences were, I had never given up. I always do my best in any situation. I believe that the right things will happen when it’s the right time. Even if I didn’t win, it wouldn’t be the end for me. I will always keep on going what I believe in. It was very controversial for me to be competing in this pageant. I was under a lot of pressure. My father passed away not too long before the pageant. A lot of people supported me and a lot criticized me at the same time. I got so many negative comments about this. Some people discouraged me to be a part of this. However, I didn’t let myself distracted by those comments; I did not pay attention on whatever they were saying. I had hope. I was determined that I was going to do it no matter how depressed and emotionally and physically broken down I was. I decided to work hard. Criticisms made me stronger. I turned negative criticisms into constructive criticisms and I stayed focused. Every challenge made me stronger than ever and this has become a great example for the youths of today who’ve been criticized by society or had been a victim of cyber bullying. My favourite motto is “No matter how hard it is, as long as you have your goals, aspirations, passion and determination, nothing is impossible“.
Tourism is gaining momentum over the past few years as a strong economy-booster industry, what do you think are the biggest contribution to that?
Picnic spots with beautiful sceneries often attract large numbers of tourists. Accessibility is one of the most important factors in booming tourism industry. All tourist centres must be easily accessible by various modes of transportation like roads, railways, air and water. To enjoy Nature’s incomparable beauty, traveling by roads and railways is a better option. Tourism is the best platform for the country to promote its culture, foods and language. Many are also attracted to places of historical significance where there is a legacy of rich cultural heritage. People love exploring destinations where there are famous ancient monuments, marvelous forts, castles and palaces and even studying the religious monuments.

If you were to invite tourists to your country, what would you tell them? How would entice them to visit Myanmar?
I would say Myanmar will be your most remarkable dream destination of a lifetime. Myanmar is a very beautiful country where you can experience the untouched innocence of Nature. It’s also known as the land of smiles. The visitors will definitely fall in love with our culture, traditions, natural resources, breath-taking sceneries, historic sites, wonderful beaches, incredible architecture, monuments, traditional authentic cuisines, and our own fashion. All of it will charm every visitor for sure. We have everything that you can ever imagine, if not even beyond that. Exotic animals and wild life, hiking and snorkelling will totally attract the tourists. I am sure whoever visited, they will definitely come back again. I will absolutely recommend visiting Vigan, which is the land of thousand pagodas, Mandalay, which is where the royal palace of the last monarchy of Myanmar is and Yangon, of course. I would definitely recommend visiting Shwedagon pagoda, one of the most famous pagodas in the world. Kyeit Htee Yoe, which is where the well-known pagoda perched at its summit, as well as a lot of religious sites, hundreds of astonishing landmarks such as Inn Lay Lake in Shan State or U Pain Bridge in Mandalay. Everybody is very helpful and it is safe to travel here for tourists.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this 2-part interview…

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