A state agency and partner NGOs are working to promote eco-tourism community targets in the Upper Mekong and Tbeng Meanchey Mountain area, with a workshop is one of their latest activities held early this week and attended by tour operators and stakeholders as well as Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.
The workshop was conducted in collaboration with the National Committee for Management and Development of Community-Based Tourism and Ecotourism, USAID Greening Prey Lang (GPL) Project and Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP Cambodia).
“The minister instructed the Secretariat of the National Committee to continue to work with the USAID and NTFP-EP Cambodia working groups, together with the Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kratie provincial Departments of Tourism and the five target communities to prepare promotional materials, especially in collaboration with relevant partners and promote the above community targets widely,” tourism ministry said in a press statement.
The five tourism communities targeted are the Tangyu Waterfall, Dataveuk and Chak Angre Waterfall tourism communities located at Tbeng Meanchey mountain of Preah Vihear province, Koh Samsep eco-tourism community in Kratie province and Samros Koh Han eco-tourism community in Stung Treng province.
“In fact, we have more [ecotourism] communities. But what we do is under the auspices of USAID through the Greening Prey Lang Project and the NTFP-EP. Our organisation has four communities in the Mekong River area: Koh Samsep, Samros Koh Han, Borey O’Svay and Phnom Chamrok,” said Sim Bunthoeurn, NTFP-EP’s programme manager.
He said that the GPL project is based in the Tbeng Meanchey communities of Chak Angre, Tangyu and Dataveuk.
With a tour package planned called Farm Trip, there are plans to arrange for guests to visit all three destinations at Tbeng Meanchey Mountain and two in the Mekong River, such as Samros Koh Han and Koh Samsep.
NTFP-EP Cambodia has cooperated with the tourism and environment ministries and departments as well as the agriculture departments to organise these ecotourism communities along the Upper Mekong River by helping them with legal documents and standards as required.
“We have documents to support the organisation and management of an ecotourism community, and it is the first document that NTFP-EP Cambodia has done with the ministry. We worked together to develop a five-year master plan for ecotourism communities along the Upper Mekong,” Bunthoeurn told The Post.
“Another important improvement we have made is the Mekong Trail Map which is the tourism route for the Mekong River ecotourism community from Kratie to the Laos border,” he said.
Two ecotourism communities in Cambodia have received the ASEAN Ecotourism Standard Award: Samros Koh Han ecotourism community in Stung Treng province and the Prey Thom Anlong Thom ecotourism community in Siem Reap province.
According to the assessment of ASEAN, these two ecotourism communities are striving to develop human resources in the community, build local infrastructure, increase new tourism products, improve existing tourism products and become more popular with tourists.
Phan Phon, president of Prey Thom Anlong Thom ecotourism community, said that NTFP-EP Cambodia helped to organise and manage the community’s tourism sites.
He said that the community regularly updates and reports to the tourism ministry on the number of tourists visiting every month to their villages and at the ancient temples, waterfalls and natural areas in Phnom Kulen.
He said that the number of visitors started growing during January and February, but he could not say the exact number yet because he was busy working in the community.
“We expect more visitors from today as we have more water attractions for them to visit as well as more local foods,” he told The Post.
He said that for the tourism package the community charges each tourist $5 for lunch, $5 for dinner and $2 for breakfast. The tourists also have to pay 50,000 riel for staying in the community tents or 20,000 riel for their own tents as the fee also includes cleaning services and upkeep of the area. Each security guard who keeps guests safe when they spend the night on the slopes of Kulen costs $5.
Chan Vanno, president of Phnom Tbeng Meanchey ecotourism community in the Tangyu area which also received the ASEAN Ecotourism Community Standard Award, said he felt that award could help promote the tourism potential of his community and increase forest conservation assistance.
The Tangyu community also has a big waterfall nearby that could accommodate hundreds of people at once and a popular camping area.
Khon advised the private sector, especially tour companies and tour operators, within the framework of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) and the Asia-Pacific Travel Agency Association (PATA), to help include the above five communities into their tourism promotions.
Tour operators have organized tour packages to the five ecotourism communities from February 21-24 to allow people to explore the forest, see the waterfalls and enjoy local foods and culture.