Cambodia has seen big growth in tourism in recent years, and has become a major tourist destination in South East Asia. Now a pillar of the Cambodian economy, the tourism sector is the country’s second-biggest source of revenue (after agriculture) and employs 500,000 people.

Cambodia saw 15% growth in the number of tourists from abroad between 2010 and 2011, and received 2.9 million international tourists in 2011. The country expects to welcome 8 million tourists by 2020, which is eight times more than in 2010. But 20% of the population still lives below the poverty line. What’s more, the most popular sites—particularly the Angkor archaeological park, which is a world heritage site—, the southern coast and the northeast forests have all suffered from the negative effects of tourism.

Project overview

Tourism in Cambodia is highly concentrated in Siem Reap (thanks to the Angkor Wat temple) and the capital city, Phnom Penh. The Cambodian Ministry of Tourism therefore wants to put in place a number of measures to ensure that the economic benefits of tourism are shared nationally, not just locally.

The Ministry of Tourism is carrying out a programme, with support from Acting for Life, to address the insalubrity of Cambodia’s tourist sites. As part of that successful programme, the Cambodian authorities asked our teams to help them tackle one of the biggest issues when it comes to environment degradation: the plethora of plastic bags littered on beaches and at tourist sites.

The creation of a global programme to solve this major problem, which is hurting SMEs and microenterprises in the tourism industry, will lead to sound measures for collecting and processing tourist waste.


  • create a reference guide for public and private actors in tourism at local level based on methods/criteria for distributing and collecting plastic bags in conjunction with public authorities and companies in the tourism, hotel and food-services sectors;
  • define incentives and restrictive measures;
  • test the plastic-bag policy in a tourist area in Cambodia (coastal or interior) approved by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.

Key results

  • Reduction in the amount of garbage, and therefore lower environmental impact;
  • Mentality is starting to change.

Project's local partners :

  • Norway