We have been meeting with more hotels, now that we are based in Siem Reap, and wanted to put our thoughts and methodologies out onto the interweb. Here goes!
PEPY looks to partner with local and socially responsible organizations when operating our educational tours. We pick our hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and partner organizations with care and look for long-term relationships with these groups that can improve our collective impact on Cambodia. By learning from and sharing our own lessons learned with our partners and contractors, together we can mitigate the pressure tourism is putting on Cambodia’s environment and culture.
That being said, our guests and friends have a variety of needs when they travel. Ideally everyone would ride bikes around the country and stay in hotels without the pollutants of air-conditioning, but we need to be realistic in our expectations. We recognize that visiting Cambodia stretches the comfort zones of many travelers, and the comforts of “home” help make the transition to learning about Cambodia possible. As such, we would like to have a range of hotel and restaurant options to recommend to our guests. During our search for potential partners we of course look at pricing and amenities, but we also consider the social and environmental impacts of their work and their commitments to the surrounding communities. As the guidebooks do not always recommend the same services we have identified, we also look to interview the more popular tourist accommodation and restaurant options so we can provide comparisons and options for our inquiring guests.
Outside of hotel services, amenities, pricing, and descriptions, here are some examples of the questions we might ask during our hotel interviews:
1) Does your hotel invest in the local community? Do you have an associated foundation? Do the profits from this hotel get invested in any local non-profit partners? What types of projects are you currently investing in?
2) How are these partners chosen? How much funding did your hotel put into these projects this year? Last year?
3) If your guests ask about supporting local projects, what guidance do you give them? Can we see this information if it is printed?
4) Does your hotel strive to decrease the negative impact on the environment? What actions does your hotel take to do so? Do you employ policies to reduce energy and water consumption, or minimize waste? How so?
5) Who owns this hotel? Are there local investors?
6) What types of services are provided to your local staff? Do you provide school scholarships or other capacity building opportunities for your staff?
7) What should socially conscientious travelers know about your hotel that will help them make a responsible choice?
By choosing partners who invest in their communities, we can ensure that the dollars we spend to run are tours benefit the local economy. We recognize that investing funds in local educational and development projects are an important part of our programs. However we also see that the daily decisions we make in how we spend our money can also have a positive effect on society. We strive to use the most responsible partners in our work, but sometimes hotels fill at the last minute, restaurants change owners, or we visit a new area where we are just forming new relationships. At these times we look to our guests to help guide us. We ask for thorough reviews at the end of our tours asking our guests to reflect on the choices we have made in planning their tour and ways they think we can improve our impact. If all parties are committed to making PEPY a responsible tour operator, from the guests to our contractors, we can continue to offer tour options which support Cambodia’s economy and people.