Over the years, travel has become inextricably linked to the concept of sustainability – and for good reason too. With the pandemic bringing tourism to a grinding halt, we were forced to evaluate both the positive and negative impacts of travel, leading us to further cement one of our core ideas – that travel should be a force for good. When it comes to sustainable tourism in Cambodia, there’s a multitude of ways to ensure that holidays here promote meaningful encounters for visitors and local alike. We believe in Kintsugi Travel, piecing back the mess made by the pandemic into something better than before. Sustainable tourism doesn’t have to just be something you hear about – making it a reality is a wholly enriching experience, so we’ve laid out some key ideas that you can implement into your next trip to this magnificent country.
- Undertourism in Cambodia
- Philantourism in Cambodia
- Community Based Tourism in Cambodia
- Indigenous Tourism in Cambodia
There’s no question that tourism can be a force for good – jobs are created and the local economy strengthened, with visitors learning to be more culturally sensitive as they engage in different countries’ lifestyles. However, the flipside is overtourism – mass crowds can cause environmental damage, cultural erosion and a strain on resources. So, what’s the solution? Practice undertourism instead. Bypass the hotspots, step off the tourist trail and make a beeline for lesser-visited (but not less amazing) destinations. Cambodia, is a prime place to support undertourism. The country sees far less tourists than the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but is by no means any less worth visiting. The country hosts a plethora of hidden gems from limestone caves in the Bokor mountains to the dinky city of Kampong Chang. Lesser-known temples and stretches of verdant rice paddies can be explored with a sense of secret seclusion, all while never being too far from iconic tourist spots such as Angkor Wat.
Our concept of Philantourism is a simple one to get behind – it involves choosing where to travel based on which places will see the most benefit from you being there. We believe travel should be a force for good, supporting local communities by spending money on local businesses. In Cambodia, tourism is a vital ingredient in the economic growth of the country. It contributes 11.5% to gross domestic product and sustains over 780,000 jobs – more than 12% of total employment. It’s a win for everyone – you can enjoy the magical temple complexes, explore the wildlife rich jungles and feast on delectable cuisine all in the knowledge that you’re helping to keep the country’s economy thriving and promoting sustainable tourism in Cambodia.
Community Based Tourism is an important component of sustainable tourism. It’s all about partaking in experiences that are owned by local communities in order to ensure the economic benefits are remaining within the community itself. These authentic interactions also help develop visitor's understanding of the local culture and way of life. In Cambodia, you could stay in a traditional homestay near the remote Banteay Chhmar temple, visit remote hill tribes on an ethical expedition with the community run Wehh Project, or visit the Osoam Community, an eco-tourism project dedicated to building a sustainable community. The opportunities to use travel as a force for good are endless in Cambodia and shouldn’t be missed on your visit to this unique corner of the world.
Sustainable tourism in Cambodia isn’t just about putting money into local communities, it’s also about immersing yourself in Indigenous cultures and practices, listening to their stories and understanding the challenges they’ve had to face. With fewer than 200,000 Khmer Loeu living in Cambodia, visits from tourists provide a vital opportunity to gain visibility that has been denied for too long. Their future lies in a fragile limbo, at risk of erasure due to over-development of the natural environment, but visiting places of traditional Cambodian culture is a way to have authentic and impactful interactions. A trip to the ‘Iron Kuy’ of Preah Vihear, for example, will see you meeting Kuy blacksmiths who craft traditional daggers and knifes, continuing the tradition that long ago saw the Khmer empire equipped for battle. Yeak Laom Lake in Ratanakiri is a sacred place for the Tompoun people of the region, and the nearby Tompoun community centre has ample information on their cultural practices, sometimes even hosting music performances during festivals. These are all culture rich experiences that truly promote cultural recognition and the act of travelling sustainably.
Written by Evie Buller