​​”Cambodia’s Tourism Revolution: Navigating the Landscape of Sustainable Travel for a Win-Win Future”

In an era where the term “sustainable” permeates various sectors, Cambodia’s tourism industry has fervently embraced the concept of sustainable tourism. Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong/Millennium Destinations, views sustainable tourism in Cambodia as more than just a buzzword—it’s a strategic vision, a business model, a mindset, and a lifestyle. Emphasizing that sustainability can be applied to all forms of tourism, including mass tourism, she advocates for carefully planned and controlled mass tourism that can positively impact local human ecosystems, acknowledging the limitations of relying solely on niche tourism for national or destination development.

Thourn Sinan, Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter, underscores the importance of sustainable tourism practices in Cambodia for the long-term preservation of its natural and cultural heritage. Cambodia’s allure lies in its rich history, stunning landscapes, and diverse wildlife, attracting global travelers. However, the rapid growth of tourism has introduced environmental and social challenges. Sinan advocates for practices that ensure the industry benefits local communities, protects the environment, and safeguards cultural treasures for future generations.

Cambodia’s diverse ecosystems, from tropical forests to coastal areas and the Mekong River, require sustainable tourism practices to minimize environmental impact. Sinan emphasizes the need to reduce waste, conserve water and energy, and protect natural habitats and wildlife.

Craig Dodge, Director of Sales and Marketing of Phare Circus, notes the evolving preferences of today’s travelers who seek immersive, local experiences with positive community impact. He stresses the importance of environmental, social, and financial sustainability in achieving this goal.

Germier-Hamel reinforces the idea of maximizing positive impacts and minimizing negative ones on local communities, economies, cultures, and environments. Sustainable tourism, she suggests, demands a holistic, impact-driven, and human-centered approach that must be consistently practiced and localized.

Sinan underscores the significance of engaging local communities in tourism development to ensure they benefit from tourism revenues. This involves empowering locals through employment opportunities, small business development, and cultural exchange to alleviate poverty and promote social well-being.

Dodge outlines specific environmentally sustainable practices, including waste reduction, recycling, conservation, tree planting, and community cleanup. Socially sustainable actions involve local sourcing, fair employment packages, non-discrimination, child protection, tax payment, and support for social causes. Financial sustainability, he adds, requires sensible business practices and pricing.

Highlighting Cambodia’s potential to attract responsible travelers, Dodge emphasizes the collective responsibility to protect the environment, support local communities, and operate responsibly for tourism to be a win-win.

Raising awareness becomes a crucial component, according to Sinan, involving tourists, local communities, and stakeholders. Education programs can promote responsible travel behavior, environmental conservation, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Ultimately, sustainable tourism practices in Cambodia aim to strike a delicate balance between economic development and the preservation of the environment and culture. By embracing sustainability, Cambodia seeks to continue benefiting from tourism while safeguarding its natural and cultural treasures for future generations.

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.