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Intl business students propose new Khmer commercial model

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090409_08.jpg

Photo by:
Kyle Sherer

Dr Ton Tepe, course director at NHTV, and Dr Carin Rustema, a lecturer at NHTV. 

KHMER-run Siem Reap businesses need to abandon bachelorhood in favour of one-night stands, affairs and marriages, according to visiting graduate students from the tourism destination management course at NHTV University in the Netherlands.

During a series of presentations at the Angkor Century Hotel last Wednesday, the 18 students urged service providers to collaborate with each other by hosting joint events, (one-night stands), combining their marketing efforts (affairs) and forming associations (marriages).

While the students have been in Siem Reap for just a month, their frank recommendations were carefully observed by representatives of hotels, businesses and the Tour Guide Association.

The students said that pooling resources and forming associations could foster creativity and growth in Khmer-run businesses, traits they say are dangerously lacking. "Foreign-owned businesses are more likely to collaborate and lead," said one student, "while Khmer-owned

businesses are focused on sustaining themselves".

The students said the unwillingness of Cambodian businesses to experiment is due to a lack of education and that an entrepreneurial training centre should be established to help them create and update their business plans.

"Cambodia has an entrepreneurial climate and an entrepreneurial culture," said another student. "Education and training are the missing links."

While the students said that creativity allows foreign-run businesses to drive the industry, there were still impressive signs of entrepreneurial savvy in the Khmer community. The Tour Guide Association was used as an example of an ideal marriage between entrepreneurs.

Siem Reap's infamous karaoke tuk-tuk, which encourages tourists to plug their iPods into mounted speakers and sing along during the tuk-tuk journey, was lauded for its creativity.

The emerging Cambodian middle class was pegged as the market to target, with students saying that several Siem Reap bars and restaurants were already courting Khmer customers. "It's starting now on a small scale," said a student.

One student identified voluntourism, where paying tourists also assist an NGO, as a largely untapped trend. While the students said that voluntourists only make up 1 to 2 percent of all tourists, they stay far longer than average tourists and spend a lot more money. 

The 18 students left for Bali last Friday, where they will begin research for their next tourism evaluation.

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