How luxury travel can ease damaging effects of overtourism

As increasing levels of mass tourism in Cambodia’s major cities threaten to place strains on local infrastructure, representatives from the luxury travel industry offer a model of high-value, low-volume tourism they believe is key to preserving the Kingdom’s natural splendour.

Cambodia’s thriving tourism industry has long been defined by a kaleidoscope of all-too-familiar images: the dreadlocked-draped backpacker slouching towards Pub Street, elephant pants billowing in the wind. The busload of ageing tourists dutifully snapping shots of King Father Sihanouk’s statue before being bundled back into air-conditioned comfort. The children swinging off the ancient stone sculptures of Angkor Wat, their parents lost in a well-thumbed Lonely Planet.

But this past year has marked a turning point for Cambodia’s travel market. A handful of new five-star resorts – Alila, Six Senses and Shinta Mani Wild – have launched in the past six months or so, and most have set up camp far from the heart of Cambodia’s traditional tourist hotspots. No longer solely selling an image of ancient temples, the new resorts are instead pulling wealthy travellers to the country’s beaches, jungles and islands, far from the hustle and bustle of major cities.

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