Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ecotourism in spotlight

Ecotourism in spotlight

Ecotourism in spotlight

CAMBODIA’S tourism sector needs to increase its focus on “responsible tourism” to keep up with foreign travellers and capture a growing market, according to officials from Dutch-backed development agency SNV.

But domestic firms warned against relying too much on sustainable travel to fuel sector growth at the launch of SNV’s Responsible Travel Cambodia pilot project, attended by 70 tourist operators at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel yesterday.

The SNV scheme is to provide business mentoring to six tourism companies for six months with the goal of increasing opportunities to capture the burgeoning “responsible” market.

“We don’t want to just eliminate the negative impacts [of tourism] but rather also introduce positive impacts,” said SNV Cambodia sector leader Trevor Piper yesterday.

Responsible tourism aims at maximising economic, social and environmental benefits of tourism, according to the organisation.

Although local operators at yesterday’s event welcomed a potential shift to responsible travel, some cautioned that the movement had not yet become a big player in Cambodia’s tourist market.

“Not a lot of people ask about ecotourism,” said Peau Vanchanphal, manager’s assistant at inbound tour operator Abercrombie and Kent.

“Most tourists just want cultural tourism, like Angkor Wat.”

Kan Lak, manager at domestic firm Nanco Travel, said he agreed that responsible tourism was further down the list of many international visitors’ priorities.

“Responsible tourism is something we want to look at, but at the moment the main demand is for [visits to] Siem Reap, then Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and then last ecotourism,” he said.

However, Alexis de Suremain, owner of Phnom Penh hotel The Pavilion, said responsible tourism encompassed more than just eco-friendly destinations, and that an increasing number of tourists prioritised sustainable practices in their travels.

“You have to be aware that this [trend] is something that is happening and it’s happening quickly,” he said, and added that overseas tour operators had asked the hotel about the origin of the timber used to make its furniture to ensure it was eco-friendly.

SNV studies showed demands from the key European and North American markets are changing, Trevor Piper said.

“[Tourists want] more meaningful connections with local people and greater understanding of the local cultural, social and environmental issues”, he said.

Seventy percent of British and North American tourists surveyed by SNV said they would be willing to pay up to $150 more for a two-week stay in a hotel that had a “responsible environmental attitude”.

Tourism is the second largest sector in Cambodia’s economy, contributing US$1.29 billion – up to 15 percent of the country’s total GDP in 2008, according to SNV.

The organisation expects tourism could be worth up to US$1.5 billion by the end of this year.

Ministry of Tourism figures also weighed in to support sustainability at yesterday’s forum. Secretary of state Kousoum Saroeuth said the World Travel Market 2009 survey found that about 71 percent of tourists thought that their travel plans should benefit the local community, and 85 percent thought that trips should have a low environmental impact.

“I would like to encourage all concerned parties, especially the private sector ... to join in with responsible tourism in the context of community development, protection of ecotourism and biodiversity,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15