Responsible Tourism Cambodia – Shinta Mani Resort

Shinta Mani

By Emily Martin

Responsible Tourism Cambodia – Shinta Mani Resort

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.

The Shinta Mani Resort sits in the leafy French Quartier of Siem Reap, between the Royal Gardens and the Old Market area. It’s newly renovated and designed by Bill Bensley (who also designed the Park Hyatt Siem Reap) but has been around for nearly 11 years now.

It’s luxury accommodation – but their main focus, and what they think is more important than anything else, is giving back to Cambodia.

The Shinta Mani Foundation was founded my Mr. Sokoun Chanpreda, a Cambodian businessman who returned from overseas to invest in a better future for his country. It is guided by the philosophy “Open doors, Open Hearts” and its core programmes are focused on education, small business start-ups and health care.

Christian De Boer, General Manager says “It’s always been from day one. Initially it was a necessity because there were no skills here so we had to train people purely for ourselves. Quite quickly you realise… well we train 3 people why not train 10? In those days hotels were just, like now, coming up everywhere and so training meant people could find jobs easier.”

Shinta Mani now own and operate three different schools. The original hospitality training school, a farming school and just recently they’ve funded a sewing school. “It’s continuously growing. The farming school is doubling in size. It started off last year with 9 English class students but then the students brought their children, the children brought their friends, their friends brought their parents and the neighbours and the whole village and right now it’s 90 people.”

The main way of funding this responsible tourism is through the rooms you are booking and staying in. “As a hotel we take $5USD of every room for every night. With that we’ve done I think around 1200 water wells, this year alone we’ve given about 3000 kids dental care and we’ll do more later in the year as well. We do eye care which is happening soon and we help with many banking loans. We also have mobile dental and healthcare clinics in use on a continuous basis.”

Shinta Mani is one of the few hotels in Siem Reap who don’t have ‘high-season only staff’. In April when the tourist numbers diminish many hotels and guesthouses let many of their staff go until numbers pick up again later in the year. Christian says “all my staff are full-time. It’s up to myself and my team to make sure we have enough jobs for them throughout the entire year.”

“I’m the only westerner in management. I have one other westerner with me but she has a Khmer boss… Cambodia is at the crossroads where there is the talent in Cambodia is unbelievable if only they are given a chance … and they need to be given a chance. The time is right now to be given a chance, and when given a chance they will succeed. That’s clearly what we’re doing. It was all very different 5, 10 years ago but now there’s no more need to have a western executive chef in a hotel – the Khmer has equal capabilities.”

“There is so much willpower here. Absolute, pure willpower to improve their lives, improve their future and improve their country. The Khmer are enormously hungry for education and knowledge. They are like sponges, they absorb everything, anything.”

When asked about why it’s so important to give back to the Cambodian community Christian is lost for words. “I personally find it a very difficult question because I don’t understand why not everyone else is doing it. I simply don’t understand how hotels cannot do it. How hotels or companies or corporations could say in April ‘bye, bye see you next year, see you next high season’. I don’t understand that. I think it’s our sole role here. We need to do something … every single one of the people here needs to do their own little bit of creating a better world.”

Another big thing for Shinta Mani wanting to help reshape the image of Cambodia. “When people think of New Zealand they think sheep, nature, forest, Lord of the Rings, Air NZ …. Positive stories. Think of France – Eiffel tower, love, romance, vineyards. Think of Cambodia – landmines, disease, disaster, poverty, genocide … it’s not so positive. That’s what we need to change…”

“What I would like to help with is try and get the respect that Cambodia deserves. For the stunning country that is, for the fantastic people that they are. For the tenacity and the will power, for the beauty the country has. Yes it’s all good to look back on the history… but you must know it is peaceful, safe, magic, unexpected and life changing for those open enough to it … if people see that and come for a holiday it means jobs here.”

Shinta Mani have many more social projects they support and run – too many to list here. You can read more on their Facebook or Foundation Page. One more initiative to mention though is the Made In Cambodia Market. This runs every Saturday and Sunday evening and allows a platform for locals to sell their handmade and homemade wares – providing many jobs.

For all their efforts and support Shinta Mani have recently landed a number of awards including; second hotel in the world, and number one in Asia for the Travel + Leisure USA “GLOBAL VISION AWARDS 2014”

“If we’re number 1 or number 4 that doesn’t really bother me. What matters is that clearly we are an ok hotel and it is ok to mix the two. To have a sincere social responsibility and be simply a good hotel.”

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