Siem Reap and Sustainable Tourism

Chris L.P and I are gearing up and getting ready to travel up to Siem Reap tomorrow! Siem Reap is the tourist hub for travellers looking to experience the ancient temple of Angkor Wat, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992. UNESCO describes Angkor Wat as one of the most important archeological sites in South-East Asia, where remnants of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th century have been preserved. Interestingly, many tourists choose to bypass Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh, travelling to Siem Reap instead to experience Cambodia’s ancient history. However, whilst Angkor Wat is the most prominent tourist destination in Cambodia, there are concerns with the phenomenal influx of tourism that has occurred over the years. These fears surround potential damage to the ancient monuments and local environment, and the country’s lack of proper infrastructure to support the booming tourism industry. When looking at tourism numbers in 1993, only 7,650 people ventured to Angkor Wat, whereas by 2013, more than 2 million people had journeyed to the ancient relics. John Stubbs, who worked at Angkor for 15 years as part of the World Monuments Fund, stated that, “tourism is already out of control, and unless the Cambodian government takes some pretty radical action to rein it in now much of Angkor’s magic and heritage could be lost forever.” These issues are problematic to the overall sustainability of Cambodia’s cultural heritage, and pose ethical questions to tourists like myself that wish to experience the nation’s ancient history. Sustainable Tourism states that responsible planning and management is imperative for a country’s tourism industry to survive as a whole. However, promoting sustainable and ethical tourism is difficult for countries like Cambodia, as it is dependent upon this industry to boost and maintain the nation’s economy. As a traveller, I believe we can encourage sustainable tourism through minimizing our impact on a country’s natural environment. Sustainable Tourism offers ways to be a responsible traveller, including being considerate of the communities and environments you visit, avoiding excessive waste and the use of plastic bottles, supporting the local economy and             respecting cultural differences. Whilst at times these actions may be difficult to adhere to, I believe it’s constructive to think about these issues, and the impact that you as a tourist can have on a country’s environment and sustainability.


  1. Thanks for these thoughts Jessie. I first visited Angkor Wat in 2007, and my most recent visit was July 2014. I remember thinking that the number of people visiting the Wat on the days I was there last year must have been at least triple the number during my visit in 2007! Visitors can certainly play a role in supporting the other (e.g. governmental) approaches to ensuring the Wat remains the extraordinary site that it is.

    I hope you and all the others enjoy your trip to this amazing place!


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