Thank you to all our guests who participated on a tour in 2016!
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and participants have been very supportive. We truly appreciate it when guests follow-up after the tour – sharing their experience and offering us advice based on their unique skill-sets. There is also no better feeling than receiving a referral and we want to thank those who have posted on our Facebook, reviewed us online or posted in travel groups back home. Lastly we want to thank participants for their patience – we did spend a lot of time tweaking the tour and everyday was a bit different so we appreciate your flexibility.
November and December were very exciting months for us. We were relatively busy and in November made a profit for the first time (after Khmer staff salaries and despite the high car rental costs). December was also a profitable month for us and, for the first time in a few years, Bridge of Life School was able to discuss hiring additional staff to work in the village.
As we look towards 2017, we feel optimistic but know there is plenty of work to do with both the tours and the school.
Our biggest weakness has been marketing – we still need to do a much better job reaching out to hotels and tour companies that promote responsible travel and tourism. Several places have expressed interest but we’ve been a bit overwhelmed with tours and still lack some of the materials.
In terms of the school – we have an exciting announcement. In February, with profits earned from the tours, we will be opening a second school in Kompong Khleang. It will be a sewing school and cooperative for residents and will follow the model established by our existing school in Banteay Srey. Essentially we will train six residents how to sew; once they have mastered the skill set they will have the opportunity to take their machine home and set-up a small business; in addition, they will produce products (bags, night dresses, scarfs) geared towards tourists which will be on display at the school (with inventory in Siem Reap). If tour participants (or other tourists) are interested they can purchase a product after the tour and the profits will be shared by the six members.
We will also be doing some “Reverse Tours” later in the year – sharing Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom with elderly residents of Kompong Khleang who have yet to visit the temples. While you would assume most residents of Kompong Khleang have visited Angkor Wat a sizable amount have not – it is expensive to travel there and if you don’t have family in Siem Reap there would be no point in visiting (unless you are under 18 for the free hospital). We think this is a great way to return the favour of allowing “us” (tourists) to visit their community; now they’ll have the chance to see a new part of their own community! In addition to transportation we will provide a meal and take photos residents can keep at home to remember their experience.
Thank you again for joining us in 2016! We will continue to keep you updated and wish everyone health and happiness in 2017!