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Plan to boost ecotourism launched

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
Tourists trekking near a community-based tourism site in Koh Kong province. Ministry of Tourism

The government this week launched a strategy to boost eco-tourism in the Kingdom, aiming to increase revenue from the sector while improving the livelihoods of rural communities and helping protect the country’s natural resources.

The 2019-2030 Ecotourism Policy, launched Tuesday during the first National Ecotourism Forum, aims to increase the number of eco-tourism communities in the country to enhance Cambodia’s offer of tourism products.

Speaking at the launch, Tourism Minister Thong Khon noted that Cambodia has about 2,300 rural communities, most of them dedicated to agriculture, fisheries, and forest protection, but only 123 function as tourism service providers.

These communities are the purview of three ministries – Tourism, Environment, and Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

These ministries are working together to develop the communities into tourism sites, which create new sources of income for locals and expands Cambodia’s offering to tourists, Mr Khon said.

“The development of community-based tourism and eco-tourism is important for the general development of the communities. Particularly, it empowers locals and helps them improve their own communities,” Mr Khon said.

The ministry is working to identify each community and understand its potential so that they can be molded into providers of tourism services, he said.

The communities, in turn, benefit from the construction of much-needed infrastructure and training programmes for tour guides, Mr Khon added.

President of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agent Chhay Sivlin applauded the ministry’s strategy and said it will contribute to the development of the country’s tourism sector. She said it will help diversify the sector and expand the offer available to tourists.

“It is good that the ministry is focusing on developing these communities into tourism service providers. To create more community-based tourism products, the government will need to work with tour operators, development partners, and the local people,” Ms Sivlin said.

Clais Chenda, president of the Hotel Association of Cambodia, said, “Creating new tourism products like eco-tourism sites helps us attracts tourists. These tourists are more likely to come back to Cambodia because they have new tourism products to experience.”

To boost eco-tourism, the ministry last year organised a contest to find the best community-based tourism site in the Kingdom. The competition was part of a campaign to promote cleaner cities and better quality of service in the tourism industry.

Cambodia received 4.8 million foreign tourists in the first nine months of the year, a 10 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

During the same period, eco-tourism areas were visited by 62,195 foreign tourists, an increase of 9 percent.

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