Pioneering Siem Reap tour company, See Cambodia Differently, has started using 100 per cent biodiesel to power its tour vehicles.
The company, which has teamed up with Naga Biofuels, wants to provide travellers with an environmentally friendly alternative when touring the Kingdom, and it successfully conducted its first biofuel tour, to Preah Vihear, on February 25.
See Cambodia Differently director Peter Jones said he thought making the change to biofuel was the right thing to do. He has been using biofuel in his personal vehicle for the past three months, and said he heard about Naga Biofuels and knew using biofuel would be something for the environment, his business, and the health of the community.
He added that if more people in Cambodia converted to biofuel, the streets would be cleaner and less people would feel like they had to wear surgical masks while driving through town.
The biggest challenge the tour operator faced during this initiative was convincing his drivers to use biodiesel in their vehicles.
Like most small tour companies in Cambodia, See Cambodia Differently employs freelance tour guides who use their own vehicles.
“We have to convince the drivers it won’t hurt their van,” Jones said. “It’s their most important asset…that’s their livelihood.”
The boutique travel company works with a pool of five drivers, and to show the drivers biofuel would not be detrimental to their vehicles, Jones sent them to the Naga Biofuel factory to learn about the benefits.
Biofuel is more lubricating and cleansing to the engine, and it can be mixed with traditional fuel in the tank without damaging the engine. But it is two per cent less efficient than petroleum diesel.
Biofuel sells at $1.30 per litre, a similar price to commercial petrol stations in Cambodia but about 20 cents per litre more expensive than black market petrol bought on the street.
See Cambodia Differently pays the difference in price to its drivers.
The company’s first tour to Preah Vihear using biodiesel on February 25 encountered no problems, and it hopes to have all of the tours running on biofuel for next year’s tourist season.
Although environmentally friendly ecotourism is trending around the world, Jones said he was not using biofuel to increase his business, but because he believed it was the responsible thing to do. “Commercially there’s not a big benefit, it’s just what I think is right.”
He said he planned to continue with biofuel, and at the moment he had no plan to alter the prices of his tours because of the change.
Naga Biofuels director Tim Waterfield said he hoped companies converting to biofuel were the start of an environmental movement for tour companies and travellers.
“Cambodia has a dearth of environmentally friendly options. We like to think that we are helping to change that.”
The small environmental NGO, which converts used cooking oil into biodiesel and a glycerine by-product used as a degreaser, now provides biofuel to 32 customers, including five tour companies.
Naga Biofuels produces between 6,000 and 7,000 litres of fuel per month in its Siem Reap factory. The company’s supply would max out at about 20,000 litres per month. Naga Biofuel also has a storage facility in Phnom Penh, and the ability to deliver fuel anywhere in the country.