If you want to support responsible tourism in Siem Reap there are plenty of opportunities, not just in this city, but across the rest of Cambodia too. It’s always good to know that your tourism dollars are going to a good cause, especially in a country where the majority of the population is young and many are in need of help in this post-Khmer Rouge era.
Responsible Tourism Definition
Responsible tourism is any form of tourism that can be consumed in a more responsible way. Responsible tourism is tourism which:
- minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts
- generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities
- improves working conditions and access to the industry
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
- makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity
- provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaninful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
- provides access for physically challenged people
- is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence Source
Joe to Go Restaurant and Cafe
On the way back from Phsar Chas (Old Market), we stumbled across Joe to Go and escaped inside to escape the mid-afternoon humidity. It’s manned by young students of The Global Child who work in the cafe to get paid work experience and use it as an opportunity to improve their English.
The chilled face flannels were a welcome treat, and admittedly we only had a cup of coffee here, but it was a good opportunity to interact with the three girls who were manning the cafe, all of whom had a serious bout of the giggles each time I asked them questions.
The walls of the 1st floor restaurant were decorated with art from students at The Global Child, which is the non-profit organization behind this venture, which runs two restaurants in Siem Reap.
A large percentage of the Cambodian population lives below the poverty line, and the local children are often needed to work in their family businesses or by sell souvenirs and postcards amid the ruins of Temples of Angkor Wat. These street-working kids don’t have the opportunity of going to school, and organizations like The Global Child provide payment to the students to attend class, so their family’s income isn’t impacted, and the children get access to education and the opportunity to learn another language.
We did encounter a handful of children selling souvenirs during our temple tours, but didn’t run across any children begging in the street in Siem Reap.
What we did see a lot of while traveling through the countryside surrounding the city was gaggles of school children in smart school uniforms cycling to and from school. Organizations like Bridge of Life School is a non-profit organization that provide free education and community based programs in the Cambodian countryside.
Don’t come to Siem Reap thinking that it’s a depressing place where poverty stares you in your face around every corner, making you feel guilty for spending your travel budget. But do spare a thought to the footprints you’re leaving in the community, and if there’s an opportunity of give back, albeit in a small way, it’s our responsibility as tourists to take these choices into consideration.
Support a Sustainable Tourism Cause
If you’re interested in supporting sustainable tourism in Siem Reap you should check the integrity of the organization before you get involved on a volunteer or donation basis. You can do this by checking the ConCERT website, which makes sure that all organizations meet specific criteria, especially regarding the safety of children. Here’s a list of organizations which currently make the grade.
- ABCs and Rice
- Anjali House
- Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre
- Center for Khmer Studies
- Grace House
- HALO Trust
- Helping Hands
- Honour Village
- Ibis Rice
- Naga Earth
- Sam Veasna Center
- See Beyond Borders
- Spitler School
- The Global Child
- The Lake Clinic
- This Life Cambodia
- Trailblazer Foundation
Flashpacking through Cambodia: For Baby Boomers on a Budget is my latest Roving Jay travel guide full of travel tips, advice, and sample itineraries for flash packers who want the back packing experience without foregoing some of life’s creature comforts – like a comfortable bed, a hot shower, free wi-fi, and somewhere to plug your electric toothbrush in.
I spent almost three months backpacking around Cambodia in 2017/2018 to research this travel guide, and I share insights and first hand knowledge of tourist traps and off-the-beaten-path discoveries. We ate street food, drank 50c beers, and travelled by train, bus, minivan and tuktuk to identify the best ways to get from A to B.
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