Myanmar (formerly Burma) is emerging from almost six decades of international isolation into a period of rapid economic growth. Following moves towards increasing democratisation since 2011, Myanmar’s tourism industry has been propelled from ‘tourism pariah’ to rising ‘tourism star’ and is experiencing an extraordinary growth in tourism arrivals with associated revenues and investment. The unique rapidity of Myanmar’s recent transition enables an examination of how contemporary forces of globalisation and neoliberalism determine the direction and mode of tourism development from its beginnings. We show how tourism is perceived by the national government as an engine for rural development, conservation and livelihood creation for poor and rural communities. We then demonstrate how this is re-shaped by a globalised tourism industry into a socially and economically exclusive model which capitalises upon weak governance and disempowered local stakeholders. We conclude with observations which may point towards a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry.