- Tourism is responsible for about 17 percent of Cambodia’s annual gross domestic product (GDP), and there has been steady growth in the sector since 2010. However, a recent slowdown in the growth of tourism points to a need to diversify Cambodia’s tourism sector.
- In 2019, ecotourism accounted for 16 percent of all tourist visits, and the number of visits to ecotourism sites doubled between 2014 and 2019.
- Developing the ecotourism industry can create jobs and provide stimulus for rural economies and building livelihoods in rural areas especially important now due to the impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
- Developing ecotourism can produce the revenues needed to help manage Cambodia’s extensive Protected Area (PA) network and protect the important ecosystem services provided by the forests in the PAs.
Barriers to a Thriving Ecotourism Sector
There are there key barriers that need to be addressed for sustainable ecotourism development in Cambodia:
- Inadequate Protection of Ecotourism Assets. There is a lack of protection of ecotourism assets like PAs. This lack of protection leads to a degradation of forests and puts Cambodia’s biodiversity under threat.
- Low Quality and Diversity of Ecotourism Offerings. Some of the existing ecotourism offerings are low in quality and their variety is limited. This lack of diversity and quality does not encourage foreign travelers to ‘stay another day’ in Cambodia, or to return.
- Inadequate Planning and Management. There is a lack of planning and management activities by the government that could support ecotourism.
In response to the need to diversify Cambodia’s tourism product and respond to the COVID-19 through the development of ecotourism, this new World Bank report provides five key recommendations each with strategic actions for:
- Mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on the ecotourism industry.
- Strengthening regulatory frameworks for ecotourism.
- Strengthening key institutions and partnerships for ecotourism development.
- Strengthening ecotourism destination planning, management, and marketing.
- Enabling and supporting the private sector in tourism.