The fast growing tourism destinations of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have published a 148-page guide book showing where and how to enjoy responsible tourism activities in the three countries. Over 25 activities in each country have been profiled in “The Guide to Responsible Tourism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.” Each activity creates income for local people, minimises potential negative tourism impacts, involves members of the local communities in running the business, conserves natural and cultural heritage, provides meaningful experiences for tourists, helps people with physical disabilities, and builds respect between visitors and hosts.
For example, the book makes it easier for tourists to trek responsibly with hilltribes, buy handicrafts that keep traditions alive, eat in restaurants that employ former street kids or people with disabilities, stay in accommodation that respects its local community, and discover nature in some of the most awe inspiring areas of Southeast Asia.
“The various recommended activities in the book show the best side of tourism,” said Mr Arjun Thapan, director general of the Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia Department. The bank supported the publication through its Mekong Tourism Development Project. “All the activities recommended in the book help alleviate poverty,” he said, “but do so in a respectful and sustainable way that both the host and the visitor can be proud of.”
Mr Thapan said continued poverty alleviation measures through tourism are important because millions of people in the subregion still live on less than two US dollars a day.
Project coordinator, Mr Peter Semone, senior advisor at the Mekong Tourism Office in Bangkok, said: “We designed the book to appeal to tourists who want to pick up a copy and go—and for tour operators and travel agents who would like to add responsible travel experiences to their Mekong subregion itineraries.”
The colour guide book describes 82 tourism experiences from the tourist’s perspective, and how that activity helps local people while respecting local culture and the environment. The book contains full contact and booking information for all the recommended activities.
The book also contains profiles of the three countries, practical information for travellers, and a list of useful resources and organisations involved with heritage, conservation and responsible tourism.
The guide was written by Mekong subregion experts Guy Marris, Nick Ray and Bernie Rosenbloom. It was edited by Ken Scott.
Statistics from the Pacific Asia Travel Association issued last month show that international tourism visitor arrivals year-to-date are growing at a rate of over 13% into Cambodia, 8% into Vietnam and 4% into Laos.
Mr Thapan said: “Our aim now is to channel that growth more equitably towards sustainable and responsible tourism operators that help us conserve culture and at the same time fight poverty.”