Tips on responsible travel to south-east Asia
There’s much more to Cambodia than the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat. Rather than an extension to a Thailand holiday, the country offers an insight into authentic south-east Asia in its own right. Justin Francis, managing director of Responsibletravel.com, says that tourists are part of a complex equation of poverty and hope. He offers tips for agents to share with clients and issues to consider.
Angkor Wat is just one in a vast complex of ancient monasteries. Taking the time to explore further reveals more ruins and a chance to follow in explorers’ footsteps and discover their own hidden jungle temples.
If clients are after a Cambodian beach break, suggest Kep. Look for responsible ground agents, which have programs that include this little fishing town, slowly coming back to life after almost being destroyed in the war. It’s a refreshing alternative to over-developed, seedy Sihanoukville.
Siem Reap, gateway to Angkor Wat, has a population of just 100,000 people, yet it has 35 orphanages, a number that has increased in line with tourism. In most of the developed world, qualifications, experience and stringent checks are required to work with vulnerable children, but in Cambodia any unqualified tourists of unknown backgrounds are allowed to spend time with abandoned children.
“Urge your ground agents to remove any orphanage visits from their programs, and if they, you or your clients are moved to help, consider supporting local NGOs working to place children in family environments instead,” Francis suggests.
Agents are also urged to help stamp out sex tourism by ensuring ground agents use only hotels that are ChildSafe certified, meaning they will not allow tourists to bring local children into the hotel.
For more tips on responsible tourism in Cambodia visit www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/cambodia
[pictured: Street in Siem Reap; courtesy ND Strupler]