The Ministry of Environment is undertaking a small-scale ecotourism development project covering 10 ha of protected areas and biodiversity corridors. The focus of the project is on improving community livelihoods and conserving natural resources in ecotourism communities.

The ministry selected six national-level priority ecotourism sites from protected areas and biodiversity corridors to implement the ecotourism project. Two communities in different locations under the project have expressed their enthusiasm and expectations that more tourists would result.

The Prey Anlong Thom community, located in Jayavarman-Norodom Phnom Kulen National Park, has ancient temples and mountain forests as tourist attractions and actually received a larger number of visitors during the outbreak of Covid-19.

The main reason for that was because people were prohibited from gathering at that time, so they could not travel to resorts as before. For this reason, they turned to hiking in the mountains.

“At festivals our ecotourism community can receive up to 2,000 guests because our community has a lot of attractions,” said Thy Then, deputy village chief and a member of the Prey Anlong Thom Community Committee.

He added that because income from local tourists has helped more than 100 families with their livelihoods, they were generally better-off than before and almost no one had logged timber in forests or hunted animals like in previous times.

This area was selected as a priority area for the implementation of the ecotourism project. Through this rare opportunity, Then said he expected that the community will become better known as a result of the increased number of tourists.

The Boeung Lumkot Ecotourism Community in Ratanakkiri province is located in an area that embodies natural beauty, with the clear waters of the lake and large old-growth trees growing to tall heights. The community has a population of more than 900 families who can earn from 40 to 50 million riel a year from hosting 60,000 to 70,000 visitors in the area per year.

Buo Lymi, head of the Boeung Lumkot Ecotourism Community, said that because of this income the area has developed considerably. The people were not as reliant on farming as they were before and they didn’t have to rely on natural resources for their livelihoods.

“It's good to know that my area has become a priority area because we can have more development partners and cooperation on management in the area. As long as there are partners, we can help each other promote the area and more visitors will come,” he added.

The priority areas for the ecotourism projects include the Jayavarman-Norodom Phnom Kulen National Park, Cardamom mountain landscape, the coastal ecological tourism area, Tonle Sap Lake, Prey Lang ecotourism area and the northeast ecotourism area. The ministry announced the implementation guidelines for the small-scale ecotourism development projects on October 3.