23 June 2016

Cultural Tourism: The Domino Effect

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In 2013 the Buffalo Tours General Managers Meeting took place in Siem Reap and coincided with the wedding of a Cambodian staff member. The wedding took place an hour from the city, in the sleepy Cambodian village of Chansor. The peaceful rural setting stole the hearts of the Buffalo team and inspired them to create a new tour on the spot; a chance to understand more about local life in Cambodia was born.

With Siem Reap developing fast to accommodate the growing influx of travellers to Angkor Wat, villages in the surrounding countryside live as they have for centuries. They tend the land, they look after their families and they enjoy a slower pace of life. Ox and carts roam the dusty, orange streets and extra income is made by selling traditional woven brooms, using the palm fronds so abundant in the area.

Cambodia - Chansor village - ox cart

Over 70% of the population of Cambodia live this way, relying on agriculture for their livelihood. Thus to understand the cultural make up of Cambodia, understanding the local life of its rural villages is incredibly important.

Visitors on a Local Life tour of Chansor are encouraged to take part in the everyday happenings of the village, to learn directly from the local community and to experience a different side to Cambodia than they have in the bigger tourist hotspots. The locals and, most importantly, their children take pride in presenting their lives openly to visitors and are able to bridge the gap between cultures through this hands on approach.

Cambodia - Chansor village - Local tour

Of course, the benefits are not simply lessons learned and traditions secured, they are financial too. Money from the tour goes into a community fund to be used towards infrastructure and in support of struggling families. The Chansor community has been able to build and repair as they see fit, developing their village in a way they had no time or funding for before.

Now, 3 years on, the relationship between Buffalo Tours and Chansor Village has grown to go above and beyond tourism. School buildings and libraries have been built for the local children attending primary school from Chansor and the surrounding villages, and most recently a scholarship program has been initiated.

Once students in this rural area finish Junior School at aged 15, their only option for further education is a high school 15km away that is disproportionately expensive to families’ yearly income. 95% of students do not attend high school and high proportions leave their communities in search of work. Those heading to tourist hubs like Thailand’s coast then become vulnerable to trafficking. The community’s ultimate goal is to build a local high school but until that time they are helping to fund students’ education and board in the district school with the help of Buffalo tours.

Cambodia - Chansor village - three people walking

What we’ve seen with just this one community project is a positive domino effect that is impacting tourist experience, community development and the future of the young Cambodian generation. It is for this reason that it becomes so important to really consider your choices as a traveller. Wherever you go, it is so important to do your research and to consider the people’s lives you are affecting and where your money is going, not just that day or in that one community, but in years to come.

The people of Chansor didn’t need tourism, but the partnership with Buffalo Tours means that they are able to take steps towards a more sustainable future for their children. A future that will develop without the loss of their cultural heritage. It is this specific type of cultural tourism that all visitors should seek to support through their travels.

Experience Chansor Village for yourself with our Community Village Life Tour and help to keep your impact a positive one.

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