For the past ten years, the team at Soria Moria Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, have been welcoming guests from all over the world. Whether it’s staying guests, local project partners or the wonderful members of staff, people have always been at the heart of Soria Moria’s business model.
This November sees a range of anniversaries and celebrations within the fields of responsible travel and tourism. World Travel Market in London will mark 20 years of Responsible Tourism and celebrate 10 years of World Responsible Tourism Day since the start in 2006.
I held fond memories of my travels through South East Asia. The grind of city living and 9-5 was taking it’s toll on my natural state of wanderlust. I wanted to explore, adventure, learn – and throw myself in the deep end of a wild experience. My teenage dream to live and work in a developing country was still in the forefront of my mind. As a strong willed young woman, I knew I would see my dream into fruition – I just hadn’t worked out how to yet.
My first trip to Cambodia was in 2007 when I came to run a guesthouse a bit outside the charming town of Siem Reap. It was a small guesthouse with a strong focus on Responsible Tourism and I was intrigued by the concept. The management and staff at the guesthouse worked closely with local community projects and hired local staff, drivers and guides. The staff all received plenty of training, had good working conditions, fair salaries and flexible working hours to enable them to continue their education – something of which was organised and sponsored by the guesthouse.
I have only been in Cambodia for 3 months but from the beginning I have been continually intrigued and drawn to the amazing businesses, organisations and individuals doing amazing work in the country.
Cambodia has the second largest number of NGOs in the world, coming in only after Rwanda. That’s not even including the many social enterprises and increasingly responsibly minded businesses operating here which are all part of a huge community dedicating their time to growing and improving Cambodia’s future.
Siem Reap, Cambodia, has been my home for the past seven years. It is a country of contrasts and smiles. The town is booming thanks to the increase in tourism; tour buses and 4x4s are everywhere. Very different from seven years ago when the only cars were taxis doing the Phnom Penh run or World Food Programme 4x4s. But step back from the main tourist area and visit villages where bicycles and motorbikes are the main form of transport and experience how many Cambodians continue to live a life that has changed little in hundreds of years.
As the first employee-owned hotel in Cambodia, the team at Soria Moria has won many prestigious accolades and we are proud to work to work with the local management and staff in continuously trying to improve the ‘Soria Moria Experience’ for guests, staff and local community alike.
The staff have an interesting story to tell too, and if you have the time during your stay they are more than happy to share it with you!
Here’s an introduction to some of the staff you might meet during your stay.
In my experience, many hoteliers do it simply because they want to do it, and being a responsible hotelier also seems to make good business sense. If people are passionate about something, then it shows in everything they do and makes for an all round great stay – and you can even make a positive difference to the local communities where you travel too.
You know it’s got to be done. Friends at home will be waiting in expectation to hear your tales, see your photos and receive some obscure gift you have anticipated they would like in a mild moment of panic buying… Souvenir shopping, for some, is a last-minute purchase at the airport, a quick ‘oh I am sure they will like it, let’s get it and go’ or an afternoon of exploration of cultural experiences which combined can be a fun activity especially in Siem Reap.
Have you ever wondered where your friendly receptionist learnt how to beam that warm Cambodian smile? How the chatty barman learnt to speak impeccable English or why your fresh bread tastes so good? It’s not by coincidence…