10 September 2009 ~ 4 Comments

PEPY on Travelfish: What changes would YOU like to see in tourism?

Here is an interview travelfish did on PEPY: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/161

One of the questions they asked was about the changes I would love to see in tourism in Cambodia.  Here are my answers:

3) You say on your website that “PEPY Tours aims to catalyse a large-scale, transformational change in tourism.” What do you think is the single most important change required in Cambodia?
In Cambodia, there are roughly two million tourists a year who come to Siem Reap. Among tourists in particular, there is a strong tendency and urge to “give”. People come to Cambodia, fall in love with the place and the people, and want to “help”. With little understanding of how to do that more effectively or who to trust, travelers can sometimes unknowingly support short-term solutions, undermine government projects, encourage more dependency, or contribute to corruption through ill-researched donations. Some might choose to not support a project at all because they don’t know the best ways to do so.

In an ideal world, Cambodian tourism would be environmentally sustainable, low-impact, and community-led, generating funding which goes back to local projects. It would lead to better understanding between peoples, a higher standard of living for Cambodians, and a significant learning experience for travelers. It could empower, not foster dependency.

To get closer to this goal, the four main changes we would like to see in tourism in Cambodia today are:

a) No more orphanage tourism. In some cases, donations for “poor” orphanages are keeping kids looking poor and orphanage owners very rich. In addition, unrestricted visits by foreigners to visit and play with children can lead to negative outcomes. This tourism trend will continue to cause harm until travelers are better educated about the rights of children and ways to support them. Child-Safe International is a great resource to learn about some of these issues.

b) More money staying in Cambodia. Most visitors don’t realize it, but they are usually staying in foreign-owned hotels, eating in foreign-owned restaurants, buying imported fruit and foods that came over from Thailand, and little of their money is staying in Cambodia. PEPY’s Responsible Tourism Statement highlights our efforts to try to increase the positive impact of our tours in Cambodia and might spark ideas and questions for others planning their travel in the area.

c) Tourism that adds to the community. With so many good intentions out there, it’s disappointing to see how often “voluntourism” or traveler’s philanthropy ends up doing more harm than good. In an effort to improve our own work and to share the lessons we have learned with others, we have conducted research to develop a Voluntourism Self-Check tool full of questions, which should help voluntourism operators and travelers better analyze the impact of volunteer travel offerings.

d) An end to both child, and adult, sex-tourism. Enough said. It’s horrific. To this end, we should still work on the first point above as sometimes unrestricted access to children’s facilities that have no child protection policies can add to this.

Click here to read the full article.