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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New tourism campaign tugs at heartstrings

New tourism campaign tugs at heartstrings

tourism.jpg
tourism.jpg

Cyclo-driver Tuk Kao delivered his last customer at 10pm. He was about to retire

from a long day of transporting tourists, when four men mugged him and stole the

25,000 riel that had taken him weeks to save.

Khun Vuth, a cyclo driver for 10 years, recieves his monthy free hair cut at the Cyclo Centre, an NGO dedicated to assisting the cyclo drivers of Phnom Penh.

"Sometimes the gangsters use chemicals [a hand gesture indicates chloroform]

so they can take the cyclo, too," Kao said. "If they had taken my cyclo

I would have no way to pay it back."

Theft is just one of the problems cyclo drivers face each day. Many are homeless

and must sleep in their cyclos with no way to secure their cash. Proper hygiene,

haircuts and other health care necessities are often out of reach.

Now, thanks to a new tourism initiative, the very same visitors that seek the cyclos'

services can help improve the circumstances for locals like Kao. Pushing for "responsible

tourism," the International Finance Corporation's Mekong Private Sector Development

Facility (MPDF) launched the publication Stay Another Day on January 22.

According to Kate Lloyd-Williams, tourism program manager for MPDF, the aim of the

booklet is to encourage tourists to extend their visit to the Kingdom, and by doing

so provide benefits for the environment, community and people like Kao.

"Just giving people money to feed themselves does not address long term issues,"

Williams said. "Supporting initiatives and organizations that are doing something

positive results in long term benefits for the community."

Lloyd-Williams cited the Friends International organization as a group that is providing

long term solutions. In one of their programs for street children, the NGO takes

homeless youths off the streets, trains them in the restaurant industry and then

helps them find jobs. By dining in one of three restaurants run by Friends, tourists

can help support this training work.

Other groups listed in Stay Another Day are helping to keep traditional Khmer art

forms and handicrafts alive. Mekong Blue, started by a Khmer couple in 2001, aims

to increase employment opportunities in remote areas by training local women in the

art of Khmer silk weaving.

"What we hope to do is help promote Cambodia as a destination for socially conscious

tourists. With the information in this booklet people can feel that their money is

going towards something worthwhile," said Ann Bishop, media coordinator for

the IFC.

Williams explained the criteria for including organizations. First, the groups must

be engaged in work that benefits the environment, the local community or Khmer culture.

Also, they must offer something of interest to tourists.

"Most travelers are interested in finding ways of adding to the local community

while doing the things they like to do," Williams said.

"It is a business publication. Sustainable tourism makes business sense,"

Williams said.

She explained that the idea is to encourage tourists to see more than just Angkor

Wat during their visit.

"When tourists stay another day tourism revenue increases, wages increase and

more jobs are created," she said.

Williams said including Cambodia-wide initiatives in the publication will hopefully

result in tourism growth in further areas, not just Siem Reap. Money from tourism

will then be spread to benefit a broader section of business and society.

The publication was released in partnership with the German Technical Cooperation

(GTZ).

"We work in community development and we thought it was a good thing to combine

helping develop the community with the tourism industry," said Peter Bolster,

team leader for GTZ private sector promotion.

"Tourists are detracted from longer stays. Currently they travel first to Siem

Reap and then maybe through Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and then on to Thailand or

Vietnam. We would like to see tourists in further areas. The guide shows tourists

why they should go to these other areas."

According to the latest statistics, tourism in Cambodia is experiencing an unprecedented

boom. In 2006, the sector generated $1.5 billion and created about 250,000 jobs -

second only to the garment industry in job creation.

"In 2006, more than 1,700,000 foreign tourists came to visit Cambodia and there

were 7,000,000 local tourists," Thong Khon, secretary of state at the Ministry

of Tourism, told the Post.

"Foreign tourists came to visit and stay in Cambodia from three days to one

week. The average spent is $770 for one tourist."

One organization promoted by Stay Another Day is the Cyclo Center. Here, they provide

daily services to make life just a little easier for cyclo drivers like Kao.

"The Cyclo Centre is open to all drivers and provides a place for them to discuss

the problems they face," said Nouv Sarany who works at the Cyclo Center.

She explained that some basic necessities are provided - from showers to haircuts,

to a free banking system where drivers can deposit their money and access it when

needed.

Language training and basic medical care is also provided free of charge. A loan

scheme is in place so drivers can afford repairs and the purchase of their cyclos.

Many drivers rent their cyclos for around 2,000 riel per day.

"I get between 7,000 and 8,000 riel per day," said Kao. "After I pay

rent and food I am left with about 4,000 riel to send home to my family."

As Saray explained, a new system sponsored by the anti-smoking campaign is enabling

drivers to buy their own cyclos on loan for $15 - a sum they can pay back at 1,000

riel per day.

"Being listed in this book will help promote us more. We need support so we

can keep helping the cyclo drivers," Saray said.

By supporting the organizations within Stay Another Day tourists can give something

back to the communities they visit.

"Everyday I can come here for a shower and I can get free medicine when I am

sick. I have had a good opportunity with the tourist booking service. When I pick

up tourists from hotels I can make more money. And there is a safe place to keep

money here at the cyclo centre."

Khon said income from the tourism industry may not reach all the people of Cambodia

immediately, but over time may improve the living standard of people living in and

around tourist destinations.

"The 'Stay Another Day' book is targeting the poor in order to alleviate poverty,"

he said. "Besides this, our big goal is to create other attractive areas as

tourist centers."

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