Social entrepreneurship and tourism in Cambodia: advancing community engagement

Heidi Dahles*, Sothy Khieng, Michiel Verver, Ireen Manders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Tourism scholars agree that social entrepreneurship has an important role to play in the adoption of financially sustainable strategies to achieve social aims and the responsible development of tourism. Yet little is known about how tourism-based social enterprises (TSEs) engage with local communities. This article aims to fill this void by addressing the question of what approaches to community engagement in tourism development are being encouraged by social entrepreneurship. The study focuses on TSE-led tourism initiatives in Cambodia where tourism is a key revenue sector. Based on case-study methodology, this article develops a typology of three distinct manifestations of TSEs showing varying levels of community engagement: (1) the cash cow, (2) community empowerment and (3) inclusive business model. The findings demonstrate that across the three models, TSEs contribute to new ways of ensuring that the poorest segments of society receive a greater share of benefits. This typology also captures the diversification of community engagement away from the established role of NGOs to a variety of independent social enterprises. However, due to fluctuations in tourist arrivals and lack of structural support for TSEs, it remains to be seen whether this transformation will advance the sustainable development of Cambodian communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-833
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number6
Early online date27 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2020


  • Cambodia
  • community development
  • Community participation
  • community tourism
  • responsible tourism
  • social entrepreneurship


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