Now the immediate shock that accompanied the rapid spread of COVID-19 has somewhat dissipated, the Ayana team – like much of the rest of the world – has gradually been getting used to a 2020 quite unlike the year we were anticipating, and finding our feet in this so-called ‘new normal’. We continue to practice social distancing by working from home, and are thankful to the wonders of modern technology that allow us to stay connected.
Tourism & COVID-19
As time passes, we are also beginning to comprehend the extent of COVID-19’s immediate impact, and consider what this may mean going forwards. It’s undeniable that countries and communities that rely heavily on tourism dollars have been particularly affected by the abrupt but necessary cessation of international travel, and Cambodia is certainly no different. Many jobs have been lost, and many families are now facing serious financial difficulties. At Ayana we feel very thankful to have had the resources to continue supporting our staff members, freelance team, and wider community, but understand that unfortunately we are in the minority…
“The pandemic has been called ‘the great equalizer’ – and certainly, we can see that at this moment, regardless of company size or business model, in this crisis phase, no one has any revenue coming in at all. However, we can also see that some companies are much better positioned to weather this crisis that others. Companies (like Ayana) who have invested in their relationships, their teams, charged fair prices, paid fair wages, and managed their businesses with sound financial practices are much more likely to be here in 2021. I’ve been so impressed with the measures Ayana put in place to support their team at this time – especially with regards to supporting the broader ecosystem of tourism suppliers who work on a freelance basis – like tuk-tuk drivers, guides and community-based tourism enterprises. In this they are fairly unique, not just in Cambodia but in the world.”
– Natasha Martin, an international sustainable tourism expert based in Phnom Penh
Lockdown love from afar
With that in mind, we have prepared a short list of organisations based in Siem Reap that we believe are doing important work to support struggling communities. If you have been to or were planning on visiting Cambodia and would like to offer support at this challenging time, we think these would be great places to start.
- PEPY Empowering Youth – As well as continuing to support their scholarship students from a safe distance, PEPY has also been distributing emergency food relief to families in the students’ home communities that have lost their regular income source due to COVID-19. They are also focusing on a COVID-19 response initiative that will ensure access to IT equipment, and therefore training and skills diversification opportunities for employment outside of the tourism industry.
- Angkor Hospital for Children – AHC provides essential, often life-saving care to children across Cambodia. The understandable diversion of funds to address COVID-19 means the hospital’s financial sustainability – and therefore ability to provide medical services – is at risk, and as such AHC is in need to donations now more than ever.
- Women’s Resource Centre – WRC provides a vital service to Khmer women living in and around Siem Reap, and during the COVID-19 crisis is committed to providing emergency food, hygiene products, and medicine to families in need of support at this time.
We know that it might be a while before we can welcome guests in Cambodia again, so in the meantime we’re reviewing industry advice and considering how we will adapt and improve our safety and hygiene protocols ready for when travellers do return. Given the very small number of active COVID-19 cases in Cambodia currently we tentatively hope to be available for day tours from the 1st July, but will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions based on the health and safety of both our team and guests.
It is also important to acknowledge that job losses in Cambodia have not only been experienced by those working in the tourism industry; the unprecedented disruption to the global supply chain has caused thousands of people – mostly women – working in Cambodia’s garment factories to either take significant pay cuts, or lose their employment altogether. Many of those working in garment factories will have moved from their provincial homes in search of employment, and will be the primary source of income for their families.
One of the causes of job loses in the garment industry is well-known brands that produce items in Cambodia refusing to pay for large quantities of clothing, shoes, and other items that they had ordered (see here for more information), leaving factories little option but to close. If you would like to support immediate and long-term improvements in the income, employment, and working conditions of those working in Cambodia’s garment factories (and indeed other countries), we encourage you to do some research and reach out to brands supplied by these factories, and question their supply chain management and commitment to ethical and dignified employment of those making their products.
Lastly, if you are missing Cambodia and have an hour to spare we really recommend watching multi award-winning documentary The Roots Remain, which is currently available to view for free online.