Multiple businesses in Siem Reap have banded together to support the most vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and flash floods. In a joint effort, local businesses are producing 450 meals a day at a time when many business owners in the area are facing hardship themselves.
Founders of the initiative named “Hotels Joining Hands” are three Hotels in Siem Reap: Mulberry Boutique Hotel, Jaya House Riverpark and Treeline Urban Resort. They have been able to continue with help and support from Cambodia Landmine Museum, Childsafe Movement and Sala Bai Hotel Restaurant School. Up to now the initiative has raised more than $60,000 and donated in excess of 50,000 hot meals to several locations across Siem Reap province.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia has faced a drastic and immediate economic crisis, most notably from the downfall of international tourism. People are struggling to survive, businesses have closed and many have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. To
add to that, the recent flash floods have destroyed homes and left a lot of people with nothing.
Karl Diederich, a co-founder of the move, said: “This initiative is of utmost importance with its consistency. A lot of people who had a standard living before the crisis are now relying on Hotels Joining Hands donations to be able to eat. Many businesses in Siem Reap have assisted us in raising donations and have done [so] for the last six months.”
He added: “We hope to be able to continue doing what we are doing for as long as it’s needed. No end in sight yet because international tourism has yet to come back. We rely on more donations and help. This is essential to keep going.”
All meals are nutritious, cooked locally (generating a small income for the local villagers and restaurants along the way) and they use locally sourced ingredients to benefit local suppliers. They also make biodegradable parcels out of banana leaves and traditional woven baskets to deliver the food. The initiative also includes clothing donations and uncooked rice, which better serve more remote villages surrounding Siem Reap.
The initiative runs at a time when the businesses involved are struggling themselves. Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples attracted 2.2 million foreign visitors to Siem Reap in 2019 but these numbers have dropped by a staggering 95 percent.
Around 10 percent of hotels in Siem Reap are now open for operation. However, none of them seems to be earning a profit, according to the president of the Hotel Association of Cambodia, Siem Reap branch.
“Our hotels are and have been functioning with the simple motto to give back to our people and our communities. When international tourism stopped back in March, we rapidly saw the sad consequences: lost incomes, unemployment and people struggling. Of course, our hotels surviving this crisis is critical, but we simply had to do something. So we started raising funds back then. It became part of our daily jobs as hotel managers,” Karl went on to say.