Cambodia has a staggering variety to offer in terms of wildlife and natural beauty. Eco-tourism has been described as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” and Cambodia has immense potential for it according to stakeholders in the travel industry.
“The biggest challenge Cambodia faces today as an eco-tourism destination is that it is not seen as a destination in the first place,” said Guichandut Jacques, Managing Director, All Dreams Cambodia, told Khmer Times. He said countries like Thailand and Vietnam are always seen as such but not Cambodia.
The scope for eco-tourism in Cambodia is tremendous Jacques said, pointing out that what needs to be done first and foremost is commerce. In other words, Cambodia needs to create new “products” for eco-tourism. For example, he names the Cardamom Mountains and the area around the Tonle Sap Lake as potential tourist attractions for hiking and camping.
“Cambodia already has existing products for tourism like Siem Reap. The crucial step now is to figure out how to do the branding and marketing of these eco-tourism products. Eco-tourism is not to be confused with mass tourism as they are two very different concepts and not to be mixed together,” Jacques cautioned. The first thing to do is to project Cambodia as a destination and herein lies a problem as the country is widely perceived to be nothing more than home to Angkor Wat, when it has so much more to offer.
One factor that could be a big help in this respect, he feels is direct flights from Europe. With the abundance of greenery in the country, opportunities are unlimited, he added.
“Cambodia definitely has excellent projects to be environmentally friendly. It has rivers, mountains and forests. The only thing to ensure is that tourists don’t cause any damage to the environment,” said Steve Lidgey, General Manager, Travel Asia a la carte told Khmer Times.
He said there are already a few projects in the country like Cardamom Tented Camp which is Botum Sakor National Park, Shinta Mani Wild in Southern Cardamoms and Chiphat CBET. Tourists can partake in these eco-friendly projects.
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