The Disproportionate Growth of Tourism

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Floating Village in Cambodia

In my first blog of the year, I wanted to reflect on my recent holiday to rural Cambodia. My visit confirmed something I already knew, “The Disproportionate Growth of Tourism”. A mere 37km from Phnom Penh, my family and I discovered an interesting temple and beautiful monastery with paintings and Buddha sculptures that would equal a visit to Saint Paul of Rome. What surprised us the most is that there was not a single tourist in sight; we were the only souls around apart from the monks. We had the place to ourselves and were able to take our time to enjoy our visit peacefully. Along the road to Kandal, where the Monastery is located, we were able to enjoy the beautiful landscape of rural Cambodia and sceneries from the daily life of the communities we were passing by. This gave us the opportunity to create the perfect holiday picture album to share with friends and show what the real Cambodia looks like.

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In contrast, our visit to the famous Angkor Wat historical site was a different affair. Thousands and thousands of visitors were pushing their way in to get a glimpse of Angkor at sunset. Busloads of tourists lined up to purchase their entrance tickets, anxiously waiting and knowing that a few minutes later they would be able to tick this notorious site from their bucket list. Not satisfied with the massive crowds, we decided to explore further, go places where we hoped would give us the same feeling we had hours from the capital. Far from Siem Reap, we found peace again. Floating villages undiscovered from tourists gave us a taste of rural real life once more and showed us the hardship in which some people live in, and we were able to visit temples and monasteries with unique features that satisfied our desire for a unique adventure that took us off the beaten path.

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The Disproportionate Growth of Tourism, or what I would personally call “The Bucket List Phenomena”, is something affecting many countries and regions around the globe. The problem is that it is not sustainable, already sites like Angor Wat and others around the globe have too many visitors, more than they can cope with to the point where sites are getting damaged and their future sustainability threatened. A country’s beauty is not defined by one famous location, but by its people and diversity in what it has to offer. Ticking the box of one historical site does not give us the full perspective and appreciation of a nation.

At PATA we believe that there is a pressing need for the public and private sector to work together in planning, building and promoting the uniqueness and diversity of each country’s offering. It requires cooperation between all parties to identify the infrastructure, air connectivity and marketing required to help disperse tourists to less visited areas in order to build a sustainable tourism product. Together we can help spread the wealth that tourism can bring for a peaceful and harmonious future.

This subject will be the theme of my presentation at the ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on January 25th.  Expect to hear more about this topic, which is dear to my heart, throughout the year, it will be something that we will address and discuss in several of our events and activities in 2015.


Till next time,

Mario Hardy
Chief Executive Officer

7 thoughts on “The Disproportionate Growth of Tourism

  1. Bonjour Mario, the Cambodian Government should realize that it may not be in their best long term interest to allow dozens of charters from the PRC to flood Siem Reap and its historical sites. I’m afraid the same will happen to Luang Prabang in Laos pretty soon as well. I hope PATA can educate and influence the authorities demonstrating that this is not sustainable and is actually damaging their tourism industry.

  2. Excellent comments Mario. You well know how I feel about the need for visitor dispersion and seizing the opportunity for poverty reduction in areas currently under-served by tourism….that is to say, places with tourism development and promotion potential. I’m confident that you and PATA will find much support from diverse sources to take active steps to alleviate this situation.

  3. The real carrying capacity of a destination and/or attraction is often not understood or sometimes ignored in favour of growth and profit. In doing so the risk exists to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. i.e. Destroying the very thing that attracts people in the first place. As tourism explodes throughout the Asia Pacific region I believe this is something PATA needs to put front a centre.

  4. Well done Mario. Great message. Quality over quantity will keep our industry healthy. Yield over volume. We need to preserve and protect those very precious icons that help build our industries while giving people meaningful experiences. You’re bang on about the difference between what attracts visitors in the first place, to what remains long after in their memories.

  5. mr hardy, very interesting points you have made. i agree with them and look forward to your comments in coming months. i had occasion to see you during the pata mart in cambodia last year, and look forward to meet you in india this year. best wishes for your ceo stint at pata.

  6. This has been a big problem at all major tourist spots in China. During the travel peak season the tour attractions are always packed with loads of visitors. The admission fees kept rising, and it still can’t avoid the tourist flows. Local governments love to see the situation as it brings more income, but it is not sustainable at all. In China more measures need to be taken to develop a more healthy toursim.

  7. Could not agree more with you Mario. The industry and in particular governments are still too focused on ‘the numbers game’ Thailand’s recent attempts to clean up its beach have not been popular with everyone but I believe passionately that they are just one of a number of initiatives being taken to tackle the long term health of the very natural assets which have assisted in the growth of Thailand’s tourism.

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