Khiri Travel has won the 2014 PATA Grand Award for Heritage and Culture for its Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp initiative in a remote corner of Cambodia.
The Grand Award is one of four ‘best of the best’ awards in the annual PATA Gold Awards.
Banteay Chhmar is a neglected collection of late 12th century temple ruins in northwest Cambodia, a 3.5 hour 4WD drive from the Angkor ruins at Siem Reap. Guests stay in ‘luxury’ tents, enabling a natural, self-sustainable option for the community. Local villagers gave their approval for the initiative and are fully engaged in each visit.
“The villagers benefit by income and skills training from the project,” says Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Khiri Travel. “They don’t have any financial risk. They’ve received training and orientation. It’s one of the first viable tourism activities in their remote rural area.”
The PATA judges granting the Gold Award said: “The program aims to build awareness and understanding of the significant cultural heritage in the Khmer context, enhance the villagers’ income and pride, and provide a low impact and mutually beneficial tourist-host community relationship.”
The tents are erected approximately 100 meters from temple ruins to give guests a sense of affinity, proximity and ‘adventure’. After the tents are dismantled, there are no traces of them having ever been there – apart from a small patch of compressed grass.
“The Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp adds alternative sightseeing options to western Cambodia, which is currently too much focused on Angkor Wat,” said Jack Bartholomew, General Manager of Khiri Travel Cambodia. “Banteay Chhmar is a peaceful, charming site and a good reason for visitors to add an extra two days to a Cambodia heritage tour.”
The Banteay Chhmar ruins are arguably the last great Khmer temple complex in Cambodia that remain largely unstudied and unprotected.
PATA will present its Grand and Gold Awards to leading tourism organisations such as Tourism New Zealand, the Korea Tourism Organization, Capilano University in Canada, Jetwing Vil Uyana, Travel +Leisure magazine, and Khiri Travel. The awardsluncheon and presentation will take place September 19 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the PATA Travel Mart.