Globalstudies – experiencing Responsible Tourism in practice

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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 quickly developed a network of people in the tourism industry in Siem Reap, and I soon realised that there was a big focus on responsible travel and tourism in Siem Reap and Cambodia. My native country, Norway, is one of the richest countries in the whole world. It has resources to make a big impact in developing countries and, as a Norwegian, I wanted to make a contribution to the development of responsible tourism in my own country.

To take this interest further, in co-operation ship with The Norwegian School of Hotel Management at University of Stavanger, we devised a programme whereby Norwegian tourism students could take parts of their Bachelor Degree in Tourism here in Siem Reap. This would enable students to meet and experience many well-established Responsible Tourism operators and operations. In addition to daily lectures, students will go out on excursions to see it all happening in practise. Over the three-month course, the students are in a perfect position to learn how to travel better, how to make little negative impact and how to respect other cultures and ways of living.

  • Our students do excursions to places like Shinta Mani, Phare – The Cambodian Circus, Soria Moria and The Cambodian Landmine Museum – all places that focus on the local community.

The students also get to contribute to the local society themselves, for example by doing ‘awareness campaigns’ and collecting garbage from the streets of Siem Reap. In short, we spend one day walking around the streets of Siem Reap, picking garbage…!! Friends and family back in Norway sponsor us doing this, and the money goes to education for the staff at Babel Guesthouse where the students live while doing one of the Globalstudies courses.

In 2011, we took over Babel Guesthouse and the General Manager at Babel Guesthouse, Mr Eath Ihm, is studying to be a teacher. He started learning his practical skills with all the girls working in housekeeping and in the kitchen. In exchange, he teaches them English five nights a week for an hour after work, and after he started this teaching, they have improved a lot. They are getting better and better every week, and they bring their English skills to their countryside, teaching friends and family back home.

In addition, we have also started an international one-month course in Responsible Tourism where we go deeper into the Cambodian culture in a way students would not have been able to as a ‘normal’ tourist travelling through. Siem Reap and Cambodia has so much to offer and the students also learn a lot about Asian culture, lifestyle and history.

I like travelling around Cambodia, and I particularly like the white sandy beaches and islands just off Sihanoukville, but I think Siem Reap itself is a very charming, exciting little place. My personal favourite café is Sister Srey. They run the place with a strong focus on Responsible Tourism, offering all their staff education. Other great restaurants in town are Marum, Haven and Sala Bai, all of them are very recommendable. We take our Globalstudies students to eat in these places, and the staff and Tuk Tuk [remork] drivers at Babel recommend these restaurants to our regular guests.

Soria Moria Boutique Hotel continues to lead by example, and if you want real luxury with a responsible tourism focus, I would recommend Heritage Suites or Shinta Mani Resort.

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