Destination Cambodia

A Volunteer Tourism Boom

Authored by: Tess Guiney

The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138831186
eBook ISBN: 9781315736709
Adobe ISBN: 9781317567837


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Tourism in Cambodia has become a key industry and is undeniably having a profound impact. When one considers that until 1993 Cambodia was largely closed to tourists, the significance of tourism just two decades later is astounding. Tourism is now Cambodia’s second largest GDP contributor (Ellis and Sheridan 2014), with tourist numbers doubling from two million in 2007 to four million in 2013 (Sopheareak and Vanny 2014). Cambodia is perceived as an exciting and exotic tourism destination, and as an alternative to traditional destinations such as Europe (Hitchcock et al. 2009). Winter even argues that Cambodia has witnessed “an explosion in tourism unparalleled in any other country in recent times” (2007, 1). Alongside the rapid increase in mainstream tourism, alternative tourism forms such as voluntourism have increased rapidly. Volunteer tourism is the fastest growing niche tourism market (Brown and Morrison 2003; Harlow and Pomfret 2007; McIntosh and Zahra 2007), with up to 3.3 million participants annually (Mostafanezhad 2014), although this is impossible to calculate conclusively (Daldeniz and Hampton 2011; Tomazos and Butler 2009). Large, for-profit corporations send extremely high numbers of volunteers throughout the “developing” world (Butcher and Smith 2010). Similarly, NGOs in “developing” nations such as Cambodia are tapping into this burgeoning industry, with many promoting volunteer stays with them or linking to sending organizations.

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