An inter-ministerial working group has vowed to improve the country’s eco-tourism services, claiming the majority fall below quality standards.
The Tourism Ministry, Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will work together to help communities take better advantage of opportunities to get involved with eco-tourism.
Tourism Minister Thong Khon said yesterday there about 2,000 fishing and forest communities nationwide, but only a few are serving the tourism sector.
“Some areas are trying but are not running proper tourism services, while we think there are many more forest and fisheries communities that could attract tourists,” Mr Khon said.
“We will work with relevant ministries to establish a joint working group on helping communities to fully function within the tourism sector.”
The working group will target communities currently under the control of the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
These communities will benefit from infrastructure improvements and training for local tour guides, according to Mr Khon.
“If we build the capacity of tourism communities, we will be able to help them earn additional income and develop sustainable tourism. We want tourism standards in communities to be comparable to other places in the region,” Mr Khon said.
Environment Minister Say Samal said his ministry will take an active role in the work. He added that infrastructure development must protect natural resources and prevent rubbish at tourism sites.
The development of community-based eco-tourism could help eliminate illegal logging and other crimes committed by local residents, Mr Say Samal added.
“Newly established tourism communities can help protect natural resources and allow local people to generate additional income,” he said. “When we develop tourism based in communities, it will provide new job opportunities and local people will stop committing illegal logging.”
Currently about 50 tourism communities are providing quality tourism services nationwide, according to Mr Khon, who cited the area surrounding Tonle Sap lake as a leading example of community-based eco-tourism.
Khim Nara, eco-tourism officer at Osmose Tours, which organises tours of Tonle Sap Lake, applauded the move, saying local people will rise to the challenge, especially where infrastructure is developed.
“Local people have limited of knowledge of tourism and hospitality, but if the project goes ahead, their skills will improve and the number of foreign tourists will start increasing,” Mr Nara said.