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Adapting the Cambodian Tourism Sector to Climate Change: Needs and Challenges


This study focuses on the climate change adaptation of the tourism sector in Cambodia. Climate change adaptation has come into focus since it has been realised that climate change impacts are certain and inevitable, see reports such as the Stern report, in 2006, and the IPCC report, in 2007. In order to avoid significant damages and to reduce the consequences of impacts, adaptation seems to be necessary in threatened regions around the globe. Cambodia is among the countries that are expected to face significant changes in climate. Cambodia’s tourism industry generates a significant share of the countries gross-domestic-product (GDP). The current state and future growth of this sector could be affected by the impacts of climate change. In light of this there is and will continue to be a need to prepare the sector for upcoming challenges.

The aim of this study was to investigate the possible and already existing responses of the tourism sector to climate change. To limit this research the study focussed on the adaptation strategies of the tourism sector to climate change impacts on a national scale. The study investigates existing climate change predictions and climate derived impacts on the tourism sector. An adaptation indicator catalogue is developed, which is used to 1. to investigate the tourism sector and 2. to provide an overview of possible adaptation options for different stakeholders. In a final step existing strategies and initiatives of the broader tourism sector were examined. This is based on a literature analysis and qualitative interviews with the most important tourism stakeholders (such as the MoT, UNESCO, UNDP, Hanuman Tourism, etc.).

The investigation has shown that the tourism industry could be affected through a higher frequency of floods and droughts, increased operation costs, a loss of attractiveness as a tourism destination, and other impacts caused by climatic changes. The adaptation indicator catalogue was effectively used as tool to investigate the tourism sector. It was divided into three dimensions: the governmental dimension, the tourism industry dimension, and the co-operational and communicational dimension. This structure enables stakeholders to easily understand the relevance of the adaptation options for them.

An examination of existing adaptation strategies show that there are institutions, policies, initiatives, and programmes with a focus on climate adaptation already existent in Cambodia. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) as well as the tourism industry have only just started considering climate change as a threat to the future growth of the sector. One main issue was the unreliability of existing climate predictions, which are partly based on limited data or do not provide region specific predictions. There therefore is a large uncertainty that prevents the tourism industry from implementing adaptation actions. The examination shows that there is limited awareness among sector stakeholders and that future educational programs are needed to mainstream climate change among them. Another finding was that the current focus in the tourism sector and the aim of MoT to expand tourism in Cambodia often leads to insufficient consideration of regulations and laws, and natural impacts or occurring threats, such as those brought about by climate change are not incorporated in the development planning processes. In conclusion it can be said that the tourism sector is at the beginning of an adaptation process but there is a lot improvement needed to cope with future climate threats and to encourage sustainability in the sector.


Hess, Janto S. (2012): Adapting the Cambodian Tourism Sector to Climate Change: Needs and Challenges. Bremen: University of Applied Sciences Bremen.

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