Eco-tourism gets gov’t boost

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A woman sells handicrafts at Preah Dak village in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district in February. Hong Menea

The Ministry of Environment is working to spur local economic development by organising small-scale tourism products in communities to provide new jobs and boost local incomes.

The ministry hopes the idea will reduce dependence on forest harvesting and help protect the environment.

Environment minister Say Sam Al announced the initiative in a Facebook post while sharing photos of Phnom Preah Resort in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district.

“We encourage and promote local economic development, such as the development of small-scale tourism products, to provide new employment options and increase incomes for locals to reduce dependence on forest products,” he wrote.

According to the ministry, 22 ecotourism communities currently managed by the ministry cover an area of 35,003ha in 12 protected areas in eight provinces including Ratanakkiri, Kampong Speu, Koh Kong, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Kampot and Kampong Chhnang provinces.

In addition to these eco-tourism sites, there are many new ecotourism resorts that are attracting tourists, such as the Roleak Kang Choeung (Phnom Khnong Phsar) eco-tourism community in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district; the Phat Sanday floating communities in Kampong Thom province; the Teuk Chob Khnar Po Ecotourism Community in Siem Reap province; and the Boeung Sneh area in Prey Veng province.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said eco-tourism in protected areas had brought in millions of dollars into local economies. It’s also promoting the potential of eco-tourism that Cambodia has for local and foreign tourists.

“In the first nine months of this year, revenue from eco-tourism in 22 communities in the 12 protected areas of the eight provinces is estimated to have injected more than $25.21 million into the local economies. There were 536,545 national and international tourists [529,160 national tourists and 7,385 international tourists],” he said.

Pheaktra said the number of tourists visiting eco-tourism sites in conservation and protected areas this year increased compared to the 2018-2019 figures. Ministry data shows that in 2018, $16.16 million was earned from 343,852 tourists and last year, $18.90 million came in from 402,293 tourists.

“The development of eco-tourism is the right strategy to improve the livelihoods of local communities, create new options and new occupations for the community and cut off the traditional activities of logging and hunting in the forest,” he said.

Pheaktra said the government policy is to turn some locations into protected areas with tourism potential so communities can participate in the development and growth of the national economy.

The policy will also contribute to strengthening the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. This policy has now become a reality and has provided fruitful results, he said.

Ngerm Lough, a Bunong indigenous villager in Sre Preah commune’s Pou Char village, in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district, said through the Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia (WCS Cambodia) project in cooperation with the environment ministry, he and other villagers are currently using bamboo to make everyday items and souvenirs such as water glasses, teapots and tissue boxes.

“We started this process in July through a WCS [Cambodia] project that provided bamboo processing machines for bamboo processing products. We earned about $1,000 from selling processed products.

“We and the people in some other villages in Keo Seima district are also producing processed materials from this bamboo,” Lough said.