Banteay Chhmar Community-Based Tourism (CBT) is a group of 14 villages dedicated to preserving and protecting the cultural heritage of their area by creating a small scale sustainable tourism industry. Visiting them is a wonderful opportunity to experience local Cambodian life at the same time as exploring one of the country’s most remote and undiscovered temples.
The temple dates from the Angkorian period and for 800 years it has remained mostly untouched and unprotected, leading to its gradual degradation and its current nomination to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The villagers are supported by the Cambodian government, local authorities and partners such as Global Heritage Fund and Heritage Watch, who are helping to fund temple conservation and improvement in the livelihoods of the local community.
Presently, villagers rely on rice and cassava farming and cross-border trade as their primary livelihoods. The CBT was launched in early 2009 and now more than 70 people are directly involved as tour guides, cooks, homestay owners and providers of services and activities. Key among them are the local tour guides, who are responsible for temple tours as well as meeting visitors upon arrival, taking them to the homestays and ensuring that everyone is informed of a guest’s needs.
As the CBT has grown, visitors have begun to help the community and tour operators and volunteer groups have made labour and financial donations including a library, rubbish pickup days and painting the primary school. The creation of the CBT has also led to a host of other community development activities like education classes on water safety, hygiene and waterbourne diseases; homestay upgrades such as modern toilet facilities, proper showerheads and battery-powered fans; and infrastructure improvements such as solar panels, kitchen supplies, solid waste management, installation of ceramic water filters and a local library.
- Location: Siem Reap
- Activities: Community Engagement, Cooking, Hiking
- Trip Tip: A great way to see a different side of the Angkor Empire