Profiting from eco-tourism in Cambodia

Ashish John
Published: 14 November 2015
Last edited: 27 July 2018
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Summary

Through eco-tourism the WCS, park authorities, business and communities are protecting globally significant endangered species in northern Cambodia. These enterprises generate enough revenue for local people to change their behavior to more wildlife friendly ways, while also increasing their wealth. Communities manage eco-lodges and provide employment. A community payment directly linked to conservation is discretionary spending for the village committee.

Classifications

Region
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
National
Subnational
Ecosystem
Coastal forest
Mangrove
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Other ecosystem
Dry deciduous forest
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Indigenous people
Outreach & communications
Protected area management planning
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Sustainable tourism

Location

Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
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Challenges

In Southeast Asia, protected areas have often been seen as open access lands. The resulting lack of stewardship has allowed destructive extraction to occur, and has limited the ability of communities to protect the resources upon which they rely.

Most of the local population are subsistence farmers. Therefore, the project needed to demonstrate how ecotourism could be incorporated into village land-use planning. In order to change behaviour and attitudes, the focus had to be on proving that conservation can result in tangible improvements in community livelihoods and wellbeing.

Beneficiaries

Local community, Kuy minority ethnic group, women

How do the building blocks interact?

A community payment directly linked to conservation – if the tourist does not see selected species they do not pay – is discretionary spending for the village committee that strengthens the institution, and social pressure on compliance. WCS provides independent monitoring on compliance to a set of wildlife friendly rules and agreed land-use plans. Developing these plans involved securing land tenure and user rights for previously disenfranchised communities in the park. Tourism operator, Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), set up by WCS over 10 years ago but is now independent, markets the sites to mostly international tourists under an exclusive arrangement. SVC is profitable and now makes significant annual investments in conservation. This demonstration of the value of the park beyond its biodiversity, and judicious engagement with politicians, senior bureaucrats and media, ensures support for the park remains high.

Impacts

  • Increased populations of endangered wildlife, particularly endemic birds: the number of successfully fledged white-shouldered ibis chicks has risen from 4 in 2008 to 55 in 2016
  • Improved income from tourism: total annual revenue for the community from service provision has increased from $6922 in 2009 to $18 523 in 2016
  • Diversified sources of income: improves economic and social resilience
  • Contribution to improving community facilities: a total of $38 546 has been paid into the community development fund from conservation-dependent payments since the project’s inception in 2008
  • Project recognised by the government as an example of best practice: received a medal from the Minister of Environment
  • High political support for Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Raised awareness in the community about endangered species, and positive changes in attitudes towards conservation: around 40% of the community are involved in the initiative
  • Community engagement in identifying drivers of deforestation: members monitor nest trees
  • Several communities from within the protected area, and from other protected areas in Cambodia, have visited the project to learn from its successes

Contributed by

Ross Sinclair Wildlife Conservation Society

Contributors

Wildlife Conservation Society