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Siem Reap Scene...

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Big day planned for responsible tourism

World Responsible Tourism Day will be marked in Siem Reap on November 12, with cultural performances in various locations and handicraft stalls for local craftspeople, organisations and charities. The aim is build a bridge between tourism and poverty alleviation.  

Two NGOs - HOPE (Harnessing Opportunities through Play and Education) and newbie ConCERT (Connecting Communities, Environment with Responsible Tourism), together with angkorhotels.org, are also organising a networking event on the day with key industry stakeholders at the Angkor Palace Resort and Spa.

NGOs from all spectrums will be able to highlight their work and discuss how the tourism and hospitality industry can help the communities and environment.

Local crafts operators and organisations can display their wares for hotels, restaurants and tour operators, giving them a better understanding of how the tourism industry, in a small way, can help alleviate poverty in Siem Reap province.

This is in line with the goals of one of the organising NGOs, ConCERT, which was founded by Aardvark Fieldfare director Michael Horton. One of the many aims of his organisation is to provide a market place for NGOs to list their goods and services, making it easier for local businesses to source items locally and channel more revenue into the province.

Artisans d'angkor up for unesco prize

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Photo by: Peter Olszewski

Artisans d'Angkor employee Pou Kimpochny displays the krama picnic trail set.

Two items from Artisans d'Angkor's extensive collection, a krama picnic trail set and  a set of temple candle holders, have qualified for the 2008 Award of Excellence by UNESCO and the Asean Handicraft Promotion and Development Association.

This award competition was established to encourage the crafts sector to preserve cultural diversity and traditional skills and knowledge.

The award aims to promote high standards of quality and authenticity, while encouraging artisans to consider the relevance and function of their creations.

By recognising such essential characteristics in craftsmanship, the program aims to set quality standards, raise international awareness and strengthen the promotional potential for Asian handicraft products.

The krama picnic trail set was manufactured by Artisans d'Angkor and Design's, in collaboration with the chic Paris designer Godefroy de Virieu, a member of the bambu Design Collective.

The judging panel praised the interesting design using reversible cloth, as well as the multiple functions, with the bag unfolding as a tablecloth and tray, and the innovative use of the traditional Khmer krama textile.

The candle holders were designed and manufactured by Artisans d'Angkor, and judges acknowledged the modern modular design, the obvious cultural reference to Angkor temple carved balusters, and the very affordable price.

Artisans d'Angkor communication manager Thavy Meng said the award qualification was valued by the company.

"It means a lot to us," she said. "It recognises the combination of our know-how in production and design, which enables us to offer our customers useful utensils and items that look beautiful, as well as having a strong cultural identity."

Students complete hospitality training

Shinta Mani hotel's Institute of Hospitality held its graduation ceremony on Sunday in culmination of its intensive ten-month training course.  Speakers at the graduation included Shinta Mani managing director Bill Black, hotel founder and owner Sokoun Chanpreda, and Carolyn Cain, a tourism specialist for the International Finance Committee of the World Bank, which is considering financing replicas of the Shinta Mani model in other cities.

The 26 students who earned certificates at Shinta Mani's fifth graduation specialised in culinary skills, food and beverage service, housekeeping, front office operations, maintenance, and spa therapy.  

Solomon DeLeon, school administrator, said the students, aged 17-24, take courses and work at the hotel, which pays for their training through donations from hotel guests and through hotel revenues.

"We're not an accredited school, but we're well recognised enough that this certificate means something," DeLeon said, adding that the school has an excellent rate of placing graduates in jobs. Some of the recent graduates have already found employment.

Applications for next year's class will be assessed in November and December, and the hotel selects students from disadvantaged families who are eager to learn.

Shinta Mani, the sister hotel of Hotel de la Paix, also sponsors community-based projects like building water wells using donations from hotel guests.

Wanderlust settles in siem reap

Photo by: PETER OLSZEWSKI

Wanderlust owner Elizabeth Keister has been keeping herself pretty busy.

There's a new entrant in Siem Reap's fashion designer stakes: human dynamo Elizabeth Keister, who together with business partner Dine Tuy, has set up a clothing store called Wanderlust, behind Pub Street.

Keister, a New Yorker, first came to Siem Reap briefly in April this year as a volunteer NGO worker. She liked the patch and, because her life was "transitioning", as she put it, and because she wanted to escape post-divorce-blues, she decided life here may be the antidote she'd been seeking.

Back in New York she'd had a long career in the fashion world, working mainly as a journalist and stylist for a range of well-known fashion magazines, including the high profile but now defunct, Jane.

Now in Siem Reap, she's designing and retailing her own fashion range of western-style easy-care clothes made in Cambodia from environmentally-kosher materials.

In the few months that she's had to make her decision to base herself here, Keister's been able to not only jet back to New York to pack up all her troubles and belongings in her old kit bag, but also found time to find premises, find workers, design her clothing range, get it made, and fit out and stock her store.

She uses her spare time to teach local kids English, set up ice cream social outings for kids, acquire an interesting collection of Asian tattoos and organise the beginnings of a tidy town clean-up campaign on her block.

Other than that, she's not done much.

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