Responsible Tourism Cambodia – Exo Travel
The “Responsible Tourism Cambodia” blog series is concentrating on high-quality businesses who are dedicated to their social responsibility in Cambodia. All of these businesses focus on responsible tourism and are supporters of Phare and our social mission.
EXO Travel is an Asian-focused travel company operating with local teams across the continent – including Cambodia.
By choosing to travel with EXO you can be sure that your tourism dollars are going towards a positive impact on the country and community you are visiting. Chris Greener of EXO Travel says “we work with a lot of NGO’s, there are a lot of NGO’s in Cambodia to start with and pretty much every one of our itineraries have one responsible aspect to it – whether it’s a Phare performance or seeing a Cambodian living arts performance, or using responsible companies like the Battambang bikes.”
“We also promote things like training cafes, training restaurants and eating responsibly, as well as doing more culturally immersion tours like in Siem Reap you go to the small local villages which brings money into those communities and gets people to realise what are the realities of the local society and get an authentic experience outside of the temples.”
Not only does EXO Travel focus on operating their tours responsibly and ethically – but they also are connected to the EXO Foundation which is currently striving to educate other organisations and businesses about the power and importance of operating responsibly.
The Foundation was created in 2011 in the wake of Cyclone Nargis which tragically hit Burma in 2008. EXO, its travel partners and travel agent clients raised over $200,000 US which were used for emergency relief, distributing food, rebuilding villages, houses, clinics and schools. The drive to continue making a positive impact in the communities they work in was so powerful that they decided to create a platform in order to do just that.
Currently the Foundation works in two parts. One is the charity side where EXO Travel gives $1 per client from their profits to the Foundation so that the money gathered can be used to help local organisations. The other project is acting as a sustainability advisor and coordinating an exciting, sustainable certification project called ‘TraveLife.’
Marine Bettant du Breuil, Assistant to Ms. Christine Jacquemin the director of the EXO Foundation, which is leading this certification process, acts as the Travelife Sustainability Coordinator for EXO Travel, Cambodia …
“Travelife is a certification to help EXO Travel involve its staff, partners and travelers to generate more positive impacts and reduce the negative ones generated by tourism activities. We’re doing it in 5 countries; Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos and of course Cambodia.” But all the new policies and processes we are putting in place shall be integrated in other countries wher we operate (Japan, China and Indonesia).
The first step of the project is to involve all the staff in the company to be ambassadors of responsible tourism. It’s about ensuring the company helps improve the social conditions of the staff – taking note of overtime, medical insurance etc. as well as educating them in environmental sustainability, working on waste management and reducing unnecessary electricity and water consumption.
“The most important part is our partners and encouraging them to be more responsible. The idea is to first communicate to them our own new responsible travel process, with the idea to be role models and show them what we are doing and get them to follow us. If they do it well then we will promote them more, we will send them more clients etc. We are putting new clauses into their contracts like; you are not employing children, or you are fighting against sex tourism.”
The Foundation will provide tools to these partners to help them improve the way they operate. “Some companies are good on social aspects others on environmental issues, rarely on both. We’re concentrating on what can be improved and especially bring awareness to the ones that don’t do anything yet. Each and every one can do things a little differently.”
The project has huge potential to grow the landscape of responsible tourism in Asia. Rather than concentrating on their own, individual impact, EXO Travel and EXO Foundation want to ‘share the love’ and help towards a greater impact.
“If we just concentrate on our own company and our own Foundation it’s still relatively quite small. We can make small impacts, but the potential to make a much larger impact because of the amount of clients that we have coming into Cambodia and the other countries and the amount of suppliers that we deal with is potentially huge.”
“If you don’t work on responsible tourism or sustainable tourism the people who come here might only ever get to see small aspects of the country and it’s not going to be the same experiences for generations to come. It’s also, first and foremost, for the people who are here. We are a tourism business and we want people to come in and see the country but we also want people here to better their lives through it.”
Responsible Tourism can have a huge impact on a community Chris says, “For example Cambodian Living Arts and Phare – they bring back something that was lost after the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia used to be a honey out of culture, arts and performers but in the 70’s 90% of the artists were killed. These guys bring back traditional arts and though tourism, through ticket prices they can create these kinds of jobs and bring back something that was lost. It’s not just jobs bit its continuing traditions, local peoples’ history.”
Download the EXO cares booklet pdf for more tips on how YOU can travel responsibly:
Read more about the charity side, of EXO Foundation.
Check out more responsible tourism in Cambodia…