Sambor Prei Kuk (SPK) is one of the main tourist attractions in Kampong Thom. The Sambor Prei Kuk Conservation and Development Community has 600 members in 7 villages. It was set up by the World Food Programme in 1998. In 2000, Waseda University from Japan started implementing its conservation project. The university set up the existing community structure as the Sambor Prei Kuk Conservation and Development Community. In 2004 they received approval by the provincial governor for protecting this community and the site and selling tourism-related services to tourists in order to generate income. After several workshops that were conducted in 2005 and 2006 in order to identify the tourism development potentials and stakeholders in Sambor Prei Kuk, the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has extended its project to promote tourism activities with the overall goal to reduce poverty in the commune.
GTZ looked for partners in the private sector to jointly improve the services and bring the attractions of the Sambor Prei Kuk Conservation and Development Commmunity on the tourism market. This has resulted in the establisment of Isanborei.
The Isanborei tourism project is a cooperation between the Khiri Reach foundation and GTZ from Germany.
What is Isanborei about?
Isanborei is an informal group of tourist service providers based in Sambo district. These providers offer varying services. The goals of supporting this group are twofold: to attract tourists to the Sambo area and offer them an unforgettable time and at the same time providing livelihood to local villagers.
There are 7 villages which form the SPK Conservation and Development Community, in Sambor Commune, Prasat Sambor District (direct beneficiary villages). These 7 villages are: Kampong Chheu Teal, Sambo, Samret, Cheay Sampov, Pou Tret, Ou Kru Kae and At Su village.
The ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk are the main attraction of Sambor district but not the only ones. Visitors will certainly enjoy the temples but there is more to explore. Sambor district has beautiful rural countryside and the lifestyle is very traditional. Visitors have the opportunity to be part of the local daily life for a day or for a couple of days. You can stay with families, cycle over pretty rural roads through villages, enjoy authentic Cambodian food at unique locations, try your hand at various handicrafts, learn to cook Cambodian food, practice traditional Cambodian dance and much more.
Above all you will enjoy the unique hospitality of the local population. All the services you enjoy will benefit the community directly.
Although the number of visitors has dropped in 2008 and 2009, tourism is still considered as one of the most important economic growth sectors that contributes to poverty reduction in Cambodia. However, mainly due to a lack of infrastructure and organised tours the rural population hardly benefits from tourism.
The untouched and overgrown temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are a unique pre-Angkorian attraction located only 30 km north of the provincial town of Kampong Thom. The main attractions of Sambor Prei Kuk are the temple ruins of Isanapura (Isanborei), located in an area of 1 x 5 kilometers. The temples that were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 1992, attract an estimated 20,000 Cambodian and 5,000 international tourists each year.
The Isanborei Community Tourism Project plans to develop Sambor Prei Kuk as a culturally interesting new destination in Cambodia which shows a different side of the country asied of existing destinations such as Angkor, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
In short the project targets are the following:
o to promote the development of community-based tourism in Cambodia
o to increase the number of visitors and their average length of stay in Sambor Prei Kuk
o to provide information to tourists and the local and international tourism industry