Aiming to ease the gender imbalance among Phnom Penh guides, a new all-female tour company is offering to take visitors to see the sights and pick up some bargains at the markets
With their bright red T-shirts and high-powered motos, the MotogirlTour guides stand out like speeding cherry tomatoes on the streets of Phnom Penh – their foreign customers sitting behind them like sacks of groceries.
Launched in December by 25-year-old Chea Renou, the all-female tour company offers guided trips around the city, stopping off at attractions such as the National Museum, Independence Monument and markets.
Renou quit her desk job as an accountant to start the business and now leads a team of six: all university students or young professionals – and all women (except for their web designer).
Renou saw that while there were plenty of tuk-tuk and moto drivers who offered tours to tourists, almost all were men. She liked to speak English and felt comfortable talking to foreigners, and she had heard from some friends about similar business models in neighbouring Thailand.
“They told me that students in Thailand run motorbike tours to earn money after university,” she said.
MotogirlTour had its first customers this month and offers five different tour options.
“Our packages have a day tour of the city, a night time tour, an adventure tour, a shopping paradise tour and a custom tour – such as the Mekong islands,” Renou said. Each package comes with a helmet, raincoat, GPS system and a guide. Prices start at $12.
The tour guides share their lifestyles and lives in Phnom Penh with the customers, but the tours don't yet incorporate much historical information.
MotogirlTour has a website and advertises on social media, but Renou's first customers – from the US, England and France – found out about it from the brochures she left in their hotels. They took the day tour package: a visit to the National Museum, the Royal Palace and markets.
“I was so happy and a bit nervous to meet the first customers at their hotel,” she said. “But they said to me that, coming to Cambodia, they thought it was a great idea to use a local tour like us.”
Not all attention has been as positive, however. Renou said that sometimes male motodops or tuk-tuk drivers have harassed them or mistaken their services for “entertainment” work. She brushes this aside.
“It is not just about the money. This is a nice job where we can improve our English and share Cambodian culture and heritage. It’s a new – and legal – business in Cambodia,” she said.
While she was working on the idea, Renou initially helped out with her family’s wholesale business, delivering food and beverages. They found her idea a little strange, but supported her.
“I am strong enough to drive heavy stuff for delivery,” she said. “So I can also drive people on a tour around Phnom Penh.”
To book a tour with MotogirlTour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 015 292 952 with the date, group size and a pickup address.