Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top Siem Reap businesses point visitors in the right direction

Top Siem Reap businesses point visitors in the right direction

Top Siem Reap businesses point visitors in the right direction

The wooden staircase at the Borei Angkor Resort & Spa which supports the Cambodian Red Cross as well as an orphanage NGO called Working For Children. Some hotel guests bring their children to see the orphanage.

THERE is no doubting there is an abundance of NGOs that exist not only in Cambodia, but specifically Siem Reap. With upwards of 300 in the province alone, tourists are often confused where they should donate their money, or where they can help. Their hotel is often the first place they will ask for advice.

Michael Horton from Connecting Communities, Environment & Responsible Tourism, says the relationship hotels have with NGOs and the community varies. He says this could be for a number of reasons.

“Hotels are made up of all types of people,” he says. “The staff or managers might have a connection, or they might be a chain hotel so it is part of their corporate decision making, or the hotel might have been approached by an NGO.”

He said many businesses, including hotels, do not have time to manage their relationships with NGOs, so that is where ConCERT comes in, connecting people with NGOs. Some hotels, however, still manage their own NGO relationships.

Horton says a bicycle program was started last year by Angkor Palace Resort & Spa general manager Weng Aow, where for US$35 a bicycle could be donated to the local community. The program is still continuing and has also been used by other hotels, such as the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa.

Hotels in Siem Reap have their own ideologies on how to best work with NGOs, and some of these are outlined in thhis article.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
Rather than working a multitude of different NGOs, the team at Raffles works with just a few because it values quality over quantity.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s director of food and beverage, Cyrille Carmona, says the establishment works with NGOs by providing support and training at the hotel.

One of the main organisations they provide this to is Sala Bai, a hotel school where 100 students are selected each year to participate in one of their four courses – waiter/waitressing, cooking, housekeeping and reception.

Raffles provides training to several other NGOs, including H.O.P.E, Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant and Everything’s Gonna Be OK.

“We want people to say: I learnt something at a local hotel international chain, which will hopefully help them to get a good job,” Carmona says.

The hotel also supports the Sunrise Children’s Village in Siem Reap through its REACH program. Carmona says they run a yearly event near Christmas time where the Raffles staff visit the orphanage and play games, serve lunch and present donated gift items.

He also said they provide support to the orphanage through cultural exchanges, giving the children have an opportunity to sing at their hotel, which improves their skills and confidence.

“It’s not about exploiting the children, but about supporting them,” he says.

Victoria Resort & Spa
Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa general manager Hanno Stamm says when he first came to Siem Reap, he saw many NGOs “who chucked kids down to Pub Street””. He said this was one of the main reasons why Victoria supported ConCERT.

“We put guests in contact with ConCERT because many ask us which NGO they should support,” he says. “We encourage people to go to ConCERT because they have a wide range of projects.”

Last February, the hotel donated 2,000 pieces of bed linen which were still of a high quality after they were changed to maintain five-star standards. Victoria contacted ConCERT and 15 NGOs received the linen.

Victoria also supports the Angkor Hospital for Children, whereby the hospital provides first aid courses for the hotel staff, and in return the hotel displays hospital banners.

Stamm says the hotel uses its space to allow NGOs to sell and promote their products. They also have a boutique where NGOs can display their items. “As long as it fits in with the boutique,” Stamm says.

He says many NGOs come to the hotel for assistance. “We can’t support them all. Sometimes we don’t know where the money goes. They all want to help Cambodia but some don’t have any idea.

“The staff and I, we make money from the hotel, so somebody needs to step up. Our guests know they can trust us and point them in the right direction.”

Hotel de la Paix
Hotel de la Paix director of sales and marketing Christian de Boer says its partnership with NGOs gives the hotel meaning and a purpose. It gives an opportunity for all the guests and staff to be involved and to give back.  “We vet the NGOs for sincerity, honesty and responsibility,” he says. “We want to make sure that 100 percent of the money is used by the NGO, so they must have no administration costs.”

He says it is important that the NGO is accessible for guests, so that they know where the money is going.

Hotel de la Paix works with the Life and Hope Association, which runs the Hotel de la Paix Sewing Centre in Wat Damnak, Siem Reap. It is being completely rebuilt and de Boer said construction was due to be completed at the end of March.

The centre is being completely renovated because de Boer said after five years in the climate, it needed to be rebuilt. He said the cost of reconstruction was $40,000, with half of that raised from an initiative where $50 was donated by MasterCard, from every MasterCard transaction at Hotel de la Paix.  “The new building will have a non-leaking roof, new sanitary facilities, a bigger storage room, bigger classroom and a large working space,” he said.

“It will have two storeys to create a bigger working space for girls who stay here to make use of it.”

The sewing centre was established in 2007 to provide training for disadvantaged young Khmer women. Not only are they taught sewing skills but they also taught to read and write Khmer script and English, as well as basic life skills.

The centre was established as a joint venture with Hotel de la Paix and the LHA, which oversees the project. The school has one teacher who comes from LHA.

Twenty students are chosen each year to participate, and when they graduate, each student receives a sewing machine and start-up kit with materials to return to their village and start their own business.

Hotel de la Paix also supports Green Gecko and the Sangkheum Centre for Children. They have donated more than 1,000 bikes and have provided uniforms for more than 16,000 children.

Borei Angkor Resort & Spa
Borei Angkor Resort & Spa last month donated about $5,000 to the Cambodian Red Cross after all the staff at the hotel contributed different amounts from their salaries to the charity. The ceremony on December 30 was attended by adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Sou Phirin, and Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Bun Tharith.

General manager Philip Kao said at the ceremony: “We hope that our participation will highlight a very good point to encourage other hotels as well as the other local businesses to join hands in contributing more to Cambodian Red Cross as well.

“The Cambodian Red Cross is one of the charities that are very active; it helps local people, women and different villages. When there are storms or floods, we can see that the Red Cross is already there.”
Along with this, the hotel also supports the Working For Children orphanage where guests can go out and visit. “Some guests even extend their stay by one or two nights if they want to go to the orphanage,” Kao says.  

“I believe you can always help somebody. You don’t have to be very rich; you just give what you can.”

Horton says often people think that Khmer-run businesses do not contribute a lot. Their help is sometimes more invisible,”he says. “Sometimes the owner might support a charity out of their profits.”

Borei Angkor is proof that it is not just the internationally run hotels that work with NGOs, but also Khmer-run hotels. Apsara Holiday Hotel, which is also Khmer-run, works with such NGOs as the United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Food Development Program, and World Vision. The hotel allows the NGOs to hold functions there and gives the guests from the NGOs discounted rates to stay.

With NGO numbers increasing all the time, hotels will play an important part as often the first point of contact for a lost and confused tourist who wants to donate.
– Craig Miles


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