The Regional Economic Development Program III (RED III), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (SDC) plus a Cambodian financial contribution, supports government, private sector and civil society stakeholders in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap to promote economic development and poverty alleviation. The program started in September 2014 and will run until March 2018. In Siem Reap Province the RED III Program is building on activities that began in 2007 (RED I and II, “Green Belt” Program). In about 3 ½ years, RED III has spent around 9,000,000 Euro. From April 2018 a RED IV Program will be launched with the same financing partners and with the same range of budget. RED IV will extend its support to the province of Preah Vihear. Activities in Siem Reap will focus on the tourism sector.
The program follows a market-driven approach and aims at a growing turnover of products and services from the region and the development of new business and employment opportunities. In this context, new dialogue formats among the public and private sector at the local level have been introduced and supported. Although the program has a strong focus on agricultural value chains (such as rice, cassava, vegetables) – reflecting the economic significance of agriculture in the region – it is also supporting non-agricultural value chains. One example is the bamboo industry in Siem Reap Province. Another outstanding example is the development of local tourism where particularly good progress has been made in the district of Banteay Srei. With a significant coordinated effort, the program supported the local stakeholders to cooperate for the development of their local tourism-related assets such as accommodation (homestays), restaurants, sites of interest and guide services.
Key to the success of the community-based tourism development in Banteay Srei has been the support for an integrated marketing concept including, for example, a free folder map with itineraries for visitors and a website for the dissemination of information, booking services and more. For both products, private sector sponsorship has been attracted. These measures were underpinned by strengthening the organization and management of the involved stakeholders and dialogue structures. In 2017, this approach (site identification, involving a wide range of stakeholders, attracting sponsors and more) and the associated products (folder map, website) have been upscaled to focus on the key districts of Siem Reap Province in close cooperation with the Provincial Department of Tourism and other key departments. This has become the “Siem Reap Beyond the Temples” initiative.
Under RED IV, the support of community-based tourism will be continued with the intention to extend the lessons learnt to selected districts in the neighbouring province of Preah Vihear. Supporting the quality of tourism services on the ground (hygiene standards, cooking/meal offers, site development, guided tours and more) based on effective local management in the context of multi-stakeholder processes is the cornerstone for RED IV’s engagement in the sector. This is combined with modern (web-based) approaches to marketing in close cooperation with the tourism industry (such as tour operators and travel media such as travel magazines and travel blogs).
The vision we have for the future – which will require strong support from all levels of private and public stakeholders – is the formation of a “regional promotion zone for community-based tourism” which extends across provincial borders and applies a harmonized approach to marketing, training and other support for service providers and an effective interface with the tourism industry. The first steps towards this vision have successfully been accomplished for which I thank all involved persons and institutions. Now, let’s work on accomplishing the next steps!
RED III Team Leader
Siem Reap, February 2018