The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 14 million people. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap - Lake (an important source of fish) and by the tropical rainforest.
With a rich, varied history dating back many centuries, Cambodia is famous for its breathtaking architecture, colorful traditions and rich culture, many of which have been declared as World Heritage symbols. The most recognized of these being the Angkor Wat complex. Alongside the large number of temples found around the country, the tradition, culture, art, country way of life and people position cultural tourism as the main tourism development for Cambodia.
The economy of Cambodia at present follows an open market system and has seen rapid economic progress in the last 10 years. Tourism has played a major role for the economic development of the country after textiles and agriculture. In 2006, the Cambodian tourist industry generated more than US$1 billion in revenue, which made up approximately 16% of the GDP in Cambodia. The industry remains growing gradually and still represents a significant contribution to the GDP, approximately 12.5% annually. In 2013, the international arrivals reached 4.2 million which represents 17.5% growth and it is estimated that the arrivals will reach 4.5 million by 2015 and 7 million by 2020. The rapid increase in arrivals has led to growing demand for hotels and other forms of accommodations and tourism-related products and services which could be the best opportunities for foreign investors in this sector during this growing period.
Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanouk Vile serve as the major hubs (major tourist destinations) however this is expanding to other destinations noticeably. For nearly all first visit tourists to Cambodia (95%); Angkor Wat temple is the primary destination whilst repeated visitors will also visit other destinations. Ecotourism and community based ecotourism destinations became an attractive destination for adventure travelers and also researchers to understand more about Cambodia, its nature and people.
The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of three rivers - the Mekong, the Bassac (Chaktomuk) and Tonle Sap. The city is divided into three sections - the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city, with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the center or the heart, with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops.
Over the past five years, the city has undergone tremendous changes - businesses are springing up constantly and tourism is once again booming. Cambodia has one of the most liberal investment laws to further boost and retain its charm and character - cyclos that weave through traffic with ease, broad boulevards, old colonial buildings, parks and green spaces that act as reminders of the country's French heritage, and above all its people who always have a smile for you. The main attractions to visit in Phnom Penh include the Royal Place, the National Museum, the Independent Monument, Wat Phnom, Genocide Museum, S21 (Toul Sleng Museum), River Front area, Russian Market, and Central Market (New Market).
The coastal area of Cambodia consists of four provinces: Kampong Som (Sihanouk Vile), Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong - known as 4K. The Cambodian Bay has won awards as one of the most beautiful bays in the world and has now been listed as a club member of the most beautiful bays in the world. Every year in early December, Cambodia celebrates the sea festival at those respective provinces; the next sea festival will be celebrated in Koh Kong.
Fringed with tropical beaches, pristine mangrove forests and unspoilt islands, Cambodia’s South Coast also boasts national parks of global ecological importance and two eerie, almost-deserted colonial-era resorts. With a wonderful selection of attractions, both luxurious and adventurous, the area is now on the most direct overland route from Phnom Penh. There is an airport in Sihanouk Vile which allows people to fly either from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap directly.
Kampot, Cambodia’s principal seaport until the founding of Sihanouk vile in 1959 still retains some of its French-era charm. A great place to relax, it is also a good base for visiting the misty highlands of Bokor National Park. Kampot is also known for its organic Kampot pepper and Durian. Kep, once the country’s most exclusive beach town, was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period and the civil war, but is making a slow, stylish come-back. Sihanouk vile, Cambodia’s main beach resort, is a short drive from Ream National Park and a one to three hour cruise from some of the country’s best scuba diving spots.
The western portion of the South Coast, wild and remote, is dominated by the impenetrable jungle of the Cardamom Mountains (Chuor Phnom Kravanh), one of mainland Southeast Asia’s largest and best-preserved forest areas. Ecotourism is starting to open up the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, home to tigers and elephants, which stretches along NH48 from Koh Kong City, near the Thai frontier, to the Gulf of Kompong Som, north of Sihanouk vile.
Community-based tourism (CBT) is a form of responsible tourism that supports local communities and improves livelihoods. These tourism destinations are managed by the local community members themselves. CBT is managed and run by the community members themselves. All of the management decisions are made by, or in consultation with the community, and all of the profits directly benefit the local community.
The main positive impacts include sharing benefits among the community members, community participation, community control, empowerment and conservation. By managing the interactions between the host and the visitors, the negative impacts of tourism to the community and environment can be minimized. Community-based ecotourism (CBET) addresses the well-being of the community and the surrounding environment. While supporting local communities and improving livelihoods, the natural and cultural resources of the area are protected and conserved. Ecotourism is a type of sustainable tourism in which tourists experience, appreciate and enjoy the nature and culture of their destination. The negative impacts of tourism are minimized while an incentive for conserving natural and cultural features is provided.
CBET helps protect nature and support the lives of the local community. Through CBET visitors get the chance to know local Cambodian people, enjoy their hospitality, join them in their everyday life and learn about their culture and environment. This authentic form of tourism takes visitors to their communities and beautiful natural areas.
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