Photo credits: Liz Titone
Happy New Year readers! We hope your 2018 was as adventurous as our’s. It has certainly been the year of travel! Our team feels as though we have been constantly on the move (and maybe 2019 should look at how we offset our carbon footprint!) – from taking guests to explore hidden corners of the country, to building an international team. More than ever, this year has seen us actualise one of our missions: to endeavour to be a responsible tourism role model and collaborate with others to innovate and inspire ethical travel best practices. Through the power of partnerships, we’ve poured energy into educating, both within and outside of our tours.
Please enjoy recapping on some of our key highlights from 2018, and ways in which we have tried to bring social benefits through tourism activities and revenue…
- $5,000 spent direct to community groups for grassroots services such as homestays
- $20,000 donated to a wide range of development NGOs contributed as donations or payment for workshops
- $1,000 on trainings for our team and key community partners
- $3,500 on social ventures, such as social enterprise restaurants
“Through Ayana, a group of Penn State university students came to learn more about our projects and the journey of a rural Cambodian student in primary school all the way to high school and university in Siem Reap. Not everyone who passes through town has the time to understand that journey, both to visit the stepping stones along the way and speak with students who traveled that path themselves. We were thrilled to collaborate with Ayana to bring that story full circle, and especially for our own students to hear from their peers about what that journey looked like all the way on the other side of the world. Penn State donated $2,500, which funds the equivalent of supplies and uniforms for roughly 200 students” – Hannah Najar, Operations Director, The Ponheary Ly Foundation
A year of advocacy
- We presented at the Ethical Student Travel Conference in Sydney in November on the topic of ‘responsible alternatives to orphanage (volun)tourism’
- We continued our partnership with World Challenge and reached over 1,000 student travellers through our ‘critical thinking on responsible volunteer travel’ workshops. Building on from our successful implementation of these sessions in Cambodia and Vietnam, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to expand this work by training new local facilitators in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, India, and Nepal.
- We contributed to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s online training course, sharing our approach to creating a sense of place and respecting culture through ethical travel. Students came from different sectors within tourism (media, NGOs, government, business etc), and from destinations as far as Guatemala to Japan.
- We worked hard to reduce our single-use plastics, and removed all from our day tours (and did a pretty good job from longer tours too!). To raise awareness about the issue, we celebrated Plastic Free July and Make Holidays Greener month, discussing this issue with guests and giving them easy solutions to minimise their environmental impact. We’ve also supported plastic up-cycling initiatives, such as Rehash Trash for our picnic boxes and Smateria for our first aid kits, both of which transform waste into beautiful new products.
Sharing is caring
- We encourage our team to participate in employee volunteering opportunities, sharing experiences and expertise with our local partner organisations and social impact projects. This year, we’ve done the following:
- Leap, our Finance Manager, spent several days with Cambodia Rural Development Team (CRDT) to offer advice on recent tax legislation for their newly formed registered social enterprise.
- Sarah, one of our Co-Founders, sits on the Board of Directors for our partner NGO PEPY Empowering Youth. She continues to support the organisation with executive decision making, fundraising, and organisational change.
- Amy, another of our Co-Founders, joined the Soksabike Advisory Board to support the responsible bike tour company transition towards local ownership and work towards sustainability.
Power in partnerships
- As part of our mission to contribute to a more peaceful world by facilitating cross-cultural connections, we continue to be passionate about hosting spiritual travel experiences. Learning about Cambodia’s spiritual side, participating in rituals, and taking time out to understand Buddhism’s peaceful philosophy are all great ways to celebrate Cambodian culture. To help connect international travellers with these opportunities, we’re excited to have begun working with Retreatours and Apsara Adventures on customised spiritual experiences.
- After years of friendship, we’re thrilled to now be a part of GoPhilanthropic’s orientation to Cambodia for their donor trip through Southeast Asia. As part of their philosophy of “listen and learn, instead of serve and solve”, we are proud to have the opportunity to introduce philanthropic travellers to the complexities of aid in the Kingdom, supporting guests to become informed donors.
- Through our partnership with Peace Works Travel, we were honoured to host the Packer School again. Packer students are paired with Khmer scholars from PEPY Empowering Youth to mutually exchange ideas and skills, to collaborate on a Digital Storytelling project. Students connect with local artists, humanitarians, and peers to explore history and cultural revival. The approach aims to create a level playing field where everyone has something to contribute and something to learn, unlike the traditional service learning model.