Assessing ecotourism using pro-poor tourism principles: The case of Sraepok Willdlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
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The purpose of this study is to assess ecotourism in the Sraepok Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia using pro-poor tourism principles. There are two basic research questions: 1) what aspects of pro-poor tourism are evident in tourism development in the Sraepok Wildlife Sanctuary?; and 2) are there alternative models of tourism development that encourage stakeholder collaboration and poverty alleviation? Using a case study approach, nine key informants were selected for the semi-structured in-depth interviews. The study employed an interpretive thematic approach as an analysing tool, and NVivo was used as a tool for organising the data into themes. The study revealed that tourism in the Sraepok Wildlife Sanctuary does not necessarily follow the principles of pro-poor tourism. The findings suggest that: 1) tourism operations in the Sraepok Wildlife Sanctuary are not commercially realistic because they may not provide secure income to the local community; 2) local participation in terms of tourism planning and in the local economy remained rather limited; 3) a holistic livelihood approach and opportunities principle showed that tourism is not a main option for local community livelihoods; 4) the distribution channels in tourism at this sanctuary entirely depend on private actors (e.g. tour operators) to bring tourists; 5) although training programmes were in place, there was nevertheless a limited ability to transfer those skills to local villagers; 6) local empowerment remains questionable; and 7) in terms of flexibility, besides a lack of specific tourism plans for this sanctuary, the strategic plans for the whole Mondulkiri province appeared to neglect some important aspects when assessed using a C-PEST analysis model. The study suggests that joint-venture partnerships may be an applicable model for the current situation in the Sraepok Wildlife Sanctuary. Suggestions were proposed in line with the adoption of this model, namely: ) clear benefit-sharing mechanisms; 2) an agreement between local community and the private actors; 3) on-the-job training and capacity-building programmes for local villagers; 4) a key facilitator to coordinate work between local communities and private actors; 5) development of a monitoring tool kit and an evaluation programme in order to track the progress of the partnership and its tourism businesses; and 6) setting a proper timeframe for the project implementation.