Brief Country Background
The Kingdom of Cambodia is emerging from tumultuous decades of war and political instability. Once a French colony, Cambodia gained independence in 1953. From 1975-79, the Pol Pot led communist Khmer Rouge regime killed at least 1.5 million people through forced labor, executions, and starvation at an attempt to turn the country to an agrarian society. By the late 1970s, the invasion by Vietnam led to over a decade of civil war. By the 1991, the Paris Peace Accord united the country and it has experienced relative peace and political stability since the late 90s. Cambodia is classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s 50 Least Developed Countries.1 Majority of the population are ethnic Khmers and Theravada Buddhism is the main religion in the country.

Cambodia has encouraged tourism as an important source of foreign exchange since the late 1980s. The annual number of visitors rose from less than 1,000 in 1987 to 787,000 in 2002.2 In 2010, over 2.5 million international tourists visited Cambodia, a 16% increase from the previous year and spent 1,786 million US dollars.3 Currently tourism is the second most important industry besides agriculture for the country.4

Summary of Interviews
Majority of the locals interviewed said the benefits of tourism for them were economic opportunities but their main concern was seeing their culture influenced and changed by the increase in tourism. Interviews were conducted in Battambang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in December 2009.  Below are a few sample full-length interviews.


Kun, café staff
Jan 3, 2010

…some (tourists) say Khmers are always about “money, money, money”. They say everything in Cambodia is very expensive. Sometimes the prices at some provinces are cheaper and sometimes at other provinces it’s more expensive. So when they come from a province that’s cheaper than Battambang, they always say, “Oh, very expensive! Expensive!”
Read full interview

Phnom Penh

Chai, travel agent
Jan. 6, 2010

But at other tourism destinations that are out of the control of the government, when tourists arrive, nobody provides services to the tourists, except only the local kids. Small children from 10 years old to 15 years old who are able to speak English…a little bit English, a little bit Japanese. They can also guide tourists and from that they can earn a little income.
Read full interview

Phnom Penh

Sun, hotel and restaurant manager
Jan. 7, 2010

So in Cambodia there’s still corruption but now we’re developing day by day. Everything, day by day, is better than before. And also the government supports the unification for gun control. So, now it’s good for Cambodians.
Read full interview

Siem Reap

Mr. Kun, managing director of an adventure travel company
Dec. 30, 2009
The good thing when they (tourists) come here is that they can help (local) people get a better life. When they spend money, it goes straight down to the local people and that can help local people get a better life.
Read full interview

Siem Reap

Anne, foreign NGO worker living in Siem Reap
Dec. 29, 2009

So as you know, I work for a NGO, so my point of view is probably very special. It’s very good – tourism for Cambodia – but it’s also a very bad thing. At the moment it’s more bad than good. For two reasons: first reason is at the moment Cambodians aren’t receiving any economic benefits from tourism. It’s only the big companies, government and politicians.
Read full interview

back to the top

2Cambodia Tourism Information |
3Cambodia Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Statistics Report 2010 |
4 Economy Watch |