Banteay Chhmar Community-Based Tourism (CBT) is a group of local villagers dedicated to preserving and protecting the cultural heritage of the area as well as creating a responsible tourism industry in Banteay Chhmar. The CBT was originally started in 2007 with the aid of the French NGO Agir Pour le Cambodge (APLC). In 2009, Global Heritage Fund (GHF) began conservation work on Banteay Chhmar Temple and formed a partnership with the CBT. In addition to GHF, Heritage Watch has also been working in cooperation with the CBT. Heritage Watch is helping in areas of educating the local population about the importance of protecting their Khmer cultural heritage and the benefits to their livelihoods from tourism activities. They have also been involved in an English language and tour guide training program for the Banteay Chhmar tour guides.
Please watch a video, made in 2007, of the early beginnings of the CBT project in cooperation with Agir Pour le Cambodge.
In July, 2007 the villagers formed the CBT committee. There are 15 committee members. The members work closely with the commune council and governmental agencies. The committee is responsible for the management of the CBT including the homestays, cooking group, tourism activities, reports to local authorities and the rotation of duties amongst its members. All the committee members are non-salaried.
In addition, Tath Sophal, is the GHF-CBT Coordinator. He is responsible for the overall management and operations of the CBT including accounting, marketing and communications with Global Heritage Fund, donors and other stakeholders.
Currently, over 70 villagers are directly involved in the CBT as tour guides, cooks, homestay owners, musicians and in other areas.
Besides the tourism activities, the CBT is also involved in community development projects. One of these projects is the solid waste management (SWM) project. Started in April, 2010, the project has been helping to keep Banteay Chhmar cleaner and more attractive to tourists. It has also helped educate villagers about sanitation-related issues. Currently, 146 families pay between 3000 riel and 5000 riel (about .75 cents to $1.25) to have their garbage collected weekly. The garbage is trucked by kuyon (powered tractor) three kilometers to a landfill and burned.
All the CBT members also participated in a tree-planting day in July, 2010. Over 1,500 native plants and trees were planted on the north side of Banteay Chhmar Temple. There were many other participants, as well, including the commune authorities, regional government officials and schoolchildren from the primary and secondary schools.
CBT Local Fund
A local savings fund was started from the beginning of the project in 2007. A small percentage of money is collected and saved from the various tourist activities. The purpose of the fund is to help pay for the CBT’s operating expenses and to help implement community development projects.
For example, in December 2010, the CBT used part of its local fund (along with a contribution from GHF and private donations) to install solar panels. The solar panels have dramatically cut the fuel expenses previously needed to run a gasoline generator. As the fund grows larger the CBT and commune council hope to relocate the CBT office and work on community development projects like water security and road improvements.