Avitourism: Cambodia to Diversify and Strengthen Tourism Industry

In a bid to expand its tourism offerings, Cambodia is exploring new avenues, with a keen eye on niche sub-sectors such as nature-based alternatives. One such emerging trend gaining traction is avitourism, commonly known as bird-watching or ornithology.

According to the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), bird-watching stands as one of the fastest-growing segments in ecotourism, presenting tropical and developing nations with lucrative opportunities.

“Avitourism serves as a catalyst for diversifying tourism products, mitigating seasonal fluctuations, and alleviating pressure on heavily visited areas by redirecting tourists to lesser-explored destinations,” states CREST.

Though still in its developmental phase in Cambodia, a report by BirdLife International (BLI) highlights the success of countries actively promoting themselves to birdwatchers. BLI notes that nations emphasizing avitourism have attracted high-spending, long-staying tourists.

“For instance, Costa Rica, heavily promoting avitourism, attributes 41 percent of its $1 billion tourism revenue to bird-watching enthusiasts,” stated BLI.

Experts emphasize that promoting avitourism can firmly establish developing countries on the tourism map.

A bird in the hand

“Just like backpackers, bird-watchers often pioneer destinations for the international market,” notes CREST.

Furthermore, enthusiasts of avitourism tend to prioritize sustainable tourism, making it a financially viable avenue for habitat preservation and fostering eco-friendly businesses.

The Cambodia Bird Watching Association (CBWA) underscores Cambodia’s rich biodiversity, housing around 600 bird species, including rare ones like the giant ibis and the white-shouldered ibis.

CBWA asserts that bird-watching tourism not only contributes to conservation efforts but also brings economic benefits to local communities, funding infrastructure development, forest conservation, and livelihood enhancement.

Speaking at the Cambodian Bird Expo Day, Chuop Paris from the Ministry of the Environment emphasized the pivotal role of bird-watching in ecotourism’s growth and its positive impact on local livelihoods and environmental conservation.

Flying High

Moreover, amidst the challenges posed, avitourism emerges as a resistant sector due to its alignment with stringent health measures.

Tony Charters, a board member of the Asian Ecotourism Network, highlights that ecotourism practices inherently prioritize safety and environmental stewardship, making them resilient to health crises, such as COVID-19.

In essence, avitourism presents Cambodia with a promising avenue to diversify its tourism sector sustainably, while also contributing to conservation efforts and community development.

Tom Starkey
Author: Tom Starkey

Tom Starkey is an International Development graduate from Sussex University with 12-years of experience across 4 continents, Tom's goal is that he wants to showcase his love for Cambodia, where he lives, works and now happily calls home.