Tourism is becoming a stronger force for change in Cambodia as locals take the front seat and devise innovative tours and activities showcasing a more authentic side to the country.
In recent years, more locals are taking the lead in Cambodia’s growing crop of community-based tourism products, a contrast to barely less than a decade ago when the majority of such products were headed by foreigners and NGOs.
“In my experience, tourism is definitely being driven more locally,” said Miles Gravett, Khiri Travel Cambodia general manager. He added that while NGOs and foreign organizations still play an instrumental role in helping initiatives with the initial set-up, many of the operations have today been handed over to locals. “This is great,” remarked Gravett.
Chi Phat is a shining example of how community-based tourism is empowering local communities. Started in 2007 under the guidance of wildlife NGO Wildlife Alliance (WA), the aim of the community-based ecotourism project was to equip locals living in the remote village with an alternative form of income.
Nestled in the heart of the Koh Kong jungle, the area was notorious for illegal logging and poaching activities. WA set about training the village’s hunters and loggers in tourism, helping them open homestays, lead treks and hikes through the jungle, and roll out a series of activities that offer visitors an authentic glimpse into life in this remote part of the Cardamom Mountains.
The project is now entirely run by the community, comprising more than 40 homestays, plus trekking, cycling and kayaking adventures led by knowledgeable villagers. “This project has proven to be very beneficial to the community,” said Chin Meankung, CEO of Cambodian Experiences. “It is a good example of tourism providing extra income and protecting the forests and wildlife from deteriorating.” […]