$600,000 Will Fund Eco-Tourism Awareness

The government announced Monday it will spend a $600,000 loan from the Asian Development Bank to promote eco-tourism resource management.

Ministry of Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon estimates that it will take at least two years before the results of the minis­try’s public-awareness program becomes evident.

Among the most vital aspects of the program is teaching people about the pitfalls of clearing Cam­bodia’s forests for farming or other development projects.

“If the forest is gone,” Thong Khon said, “the local people will lose opportunities. [But] if we protect the forest for tourism, the relevant jobs will be created.”

The announcement came at the two-day National Seminar on Sustainable Tourism Resource Management, organized by the Ministry of Tourism, the World Tourism Organization and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific.

The seminar’s aim was to connect tourists and providers of touri­sm services with advocates of environmental and cultural protection and community groups who de­sire responsible tourism development, tourism officials said.

“We cannot talk about tourism development without mentioning sustainable tourism resource management,” Dr H Varma, reg­ional representative for the World Tourism Organization, said in his opening address.

“It is the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life-support systems, ” he told the seminar.

Varma added that developing Cambodia’s local tourism industry can bring a high return on investment, but that proper training and responsible development are vital.

“If it is not managed properly, tour­ism can be harmful to the lo­cal environment and society…and the uncontrolled use of natural cultural sites may lead to their deterioration,” he said. He also warned against “over-commercialization.”

The seminar also addressed the need for easier access to cultural sites by roads, airports and waterways and the need for members of local communities to recognize the earning potential in training as tour guides.

“The local people will be the first to benefit from the eco-tourism program,” Thong Khon said. “Tra­ditional transportation such as riding elephants and cow carts will be encouraged” to transport tourists.

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