Cambodia’s Manager: Why CBT is Better Than Aid
Although Cambodia’s economy saw an annual average growth rate of over 8% in the last ten years, development aid is still commonplace in the country. General Manager Jack Bartholomew, in the Khiri Travel Phnom Penh office, reflects on the situation.
It is well documented that Cambodia attracts many international aid projects from all over the world. I live in a place that attracts people who want to help Cambodia and its long-suffering people. It is also increasingly known that not all of these projects are benefiting the country and people; some have even been accused of taking advantage of Cambodia’s relaxed business environment and its easy-going people. There has been increasing media coverage focusing on some of the negative effects of poorly handled or ill intentioned aid projects in Cambodia. ‘Orphanage tourism’ has thankfully been largely condemned.
Fortunately there do exist some really great projects in Cambodia that are committed to improving the standard of living for the people on a community level.
It’s especially encouraging to see the increase in CBT (community-based tourism) projects that focus on improving the lives of a community by providing them with tourism-related jobs and work. I think this is important as it fosters a work ethic and avoids the easier but more harmful option of donating money to ‘help’ people who don’t have enough. CBT projects help the country move away from a begging culture.
There are many great upsides to supporting legitimate initiatives and projects in Cambodia that create jobs, create an income for villagers and build them a future. The challenge going forwards for Cambodia is its urgent need to find a balance between rapid economic growth and development in the tourism sector. We have to carefully consider the impact and effects it can have on Cambodia at a cultural level and at the community level.
That is why CBT projects, which are inclusive and participatory, are better than passive aid beneficiary projects.