Bringing a Sustainable Edge To Siem Reap Tourism

Cambodia’s Road to Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable Tourism in Siem Reap

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Siem Reap is a city of natural beauty and breathtaking scenery—the gateway to Angkor’s intricate ruins, majestic landforms, idyllic bodies of water and notable biodiversity. On top of that, a rich ancient history and an array of diverse cultures, combined with ease of travel airport connections, make Siem Reap a world class tourist destination. Some of its magnificent temples have, in fact, been recognized globally, like the recent inclusion of Angkor Wat as one of the 21 finalists for the new seven wonders of the world, and a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Consequently millions  of tourists, from all over the world, visit the city each year propelling forward the growth of Cambodia as a global tourist destination. This progress can only be maintained, however, with responsible and sustainable tourism development. While most environmentally-abusive practices have already been declared illegal—including damage caused by several construction projects—the ongoing protection of what makes Siem Reap special needs to be upheld.

As Cambodia’s tourism makes a paradigm shift towards sustainability, beginning with Siem Reap and extending to other destinations in the kingdom, it has pioneered  projects that place the city and region at the forefront of efforts to protect and promote Cambodia’s cultural and natural wonders. 

If you’re planning to visit the city, here are ways to have a more ‘sustainable experience’ during your stay.

Supporting Sustainability in Local Communities 

  • Backstreet Academy

A range of activities are available on the  Backstreet Academy website—from cooking classes and carving workshops, through to a  boxing training session—a guest has the opportunity to experience and learn with community instructors. You get to choose the field you’re interested in, including food and drinks, culture, arts and craft, eco-friendly activities, or a tour.  

Backstreet Academy has created a platform to recognize the great undiscovered skills of artisans and craftsmen who are underprivileged and in need of support, and reward them with an opportunity to earn additional income while doing their craft. 

Location: Inside Phare Cambodian Circus, South of Sok San Rd and Ring Rd intersection, Krong Siem Reap

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 9am to 8pm 
Fee: Rate starts at $8 USD

  • New Cambodian Artists

The Khmer Rouge era decimated the kingdom’s  art and cultural industry, with tools and teachers lost to this dark period..The New Cambodian Artists Dance Company has risen to help fill this space, providing opportunities for women artists to showcase and develop their talents within a professional framework, while empowering their passion for art. In its work, the New Cambodia Artists is much more than an employment project—it is a grassroots effort to regenerate the kingdom’s creative culture. 

Location: Men’s Road, Krong Siem Reap

Opening Hours: Saturdays at 6:30pm
Fee: Tickets costs $12 USD

  • ‘Made in Cambodia’ Market

Visitors and guests can purchase high quality Cambodia-made artisan products, crafts, delicacies in the dining and retail complex of Made in Cambodia Market. This market provides a place for local artisans and craftsmen to display and sell their work, providing an income from themselves and their families..

Aside from that, they alongside, practice and develop their skills by making numerous pieces of their craft daily. Internationally recognized artisan products and brands are also offered in the market which comes with a price. The main philosophy behind the Made in Cambodia Market is to “Help Create Khmer Jobs.”

Location: Street 27, Achar Sva St. King’s Road Angkor, Krong Siem Reap

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 12:00pm to 10:00pm

  • Phare, The Cambodian Circus

A ticket in your hand will guarantee an access to Phare’s Boutique where you can get some of the most extraordinary souvenirs; to Phare’s Cafe where you can grab drinks, snacks and delicious meals which you can take while watching the Phare’s Cambodian Circus. More than just a circus, Phare’s performances are unlike any circus elsewhere in the world. It portrays stories of Cambodia’s recent history, folklore and modern society through dances, theater, original live music and breathtaking circus arts—all performed by the graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang.

Profits collected from ticket sales to merchandise sales are used to support Phare Ponleu Selpak’s free education, professional arts training, and social support programs for the passionate youths in Battambang.

Location: South of Sok San Rd and Ring Rd intersection, Krong Siem Reap

Opening Hours: Nightly 8:00pm performances (strictly no entry once the performance has started)
Fee: Tickets are between $18 USD to $38 USD (depending on preferred seat)

Sustainability in Protecting the Nature’s Beauty

  • Apopo Visitor Center

Remnants of the war lie under the feet of Cambodians, planted landmines that pose fear to the local people and threat to the beauty of nature. But Apopo, a Belgian NGO, helps the community ease its fear by training the rats to carefully and accurately detect landmines. They named the trained rats as HeroRATS for saving lives and saving lands, freeing people from fear of developing their productive land. In order to raise awareness on the vital role of rats in the humanitarian demining process, Apopo Visitor Center opens its door to the public to actually meet and view the rats under training. 

Location: Trapeang Ses Village, Siem Reap

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30am to 5:30pm
Entrance Fee: $5 USD

  • Rehash Trash

Turning every bit of trash to something useful, Rehash Trash is a social enterprise from the Green Gecko Project NGO that collects and recycles about 5,000 disposed plastic bags every week. These are then used for creating great quality products like baskets, hampers, bags, and table settings that customers can purchase, along with a creative workshop they can experience. In the process, this project helps to reduce the trash appearances and clean up the environment. 

Meanwhile, behind the great products are the hands of about 20 local women involved in every step of the process—from collecting, washing, preparing, crocheting up until the product is served and sold. These women, who are also mothers trying to secure a better life for their children, are given the opportunity to earn income, and receive Khmer literacy classes with the help of Rehash Trash.

  • Café Collective

In the hope of eliminating plastic usage, a group cafés in Siem Reap has imposed a measure to force customers to bring their own reusable cup. Customers ordering coffees intended for take out will be charged 1,000 Riel for using the café’s cup. However, customers that will bring their own cups will be rewarded with 1,000 Riel in return.

Coffee shops involved in Café Collective: Bang Bang Bakery, The Little Red Fox Espresso, Footprint Cafe, New Leaf and ARTillery, Kuriosity Kafé, Bayon Pastry School Coffee Shop, CRANE Siem Reap, Sister Srey Cafe, Brother Bong Cafe, The Missing Socks Laundry Cafe, The Glasshouse Deli Patisserie, Wine O’clock Deli & Café.

  • Eco-friendly Accomodation
Photo by Song Saa Reserve

Song Saa Foundation is a non-profit organization that is committed to balance the coexistence of local communities and preservation of nature through its sustainable projects. Among those are Song Saa Private Island, an eco-tourism accommodation within wooden villas tucked in the pristine beaches of Koh Rong Archipelago; and Song Saa Reserve, a 200-hectare eco-tourism commune that will soon break ground in Bantaey Srei Siem Reap. It will feature villas, hotels, hospitality training centers, and conservation initiatives—all powered by renewable energy

Also, more than 40 members of Siem Reap’s hospitality and tourism sector have joined the campaign of “ReFill Not Landfill” which aims to reduce plastic disposal and change the way water is consumed. This campaign encourages the use of reusable drinking water bottles and integration of water refilling stations within hotels and its other partners’ and participants’ businesses. Some of those participants are Jaya House Riverpark, Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat, and Babel Guesthouse.

See also: Demining Efforts in Cambodia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *