Battambang Incubator Snares Wild Asia Award

Naomi-Collett Ritz / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Soksabike guide Saram greets a Khmer family while guiding a bike tour around Battambang town. Photo: William Ouy-Lim Do

SIEM REAP (Khmer Times) – The careful cultivation of Battambang social incubator Kinyei’s multiple facets has earned Cambodia its second-ever Wild Asia Responsible Tourism award. 

Kinyei hopes the award will energize the local competition and inspire copycats. 

In addition to opening Sammaki Community Art Gallery, Kinyei operates Soksabike Tours and Kinyei Cafe in Battambang.

Last Monday Kinyei’s Soksabike manager, Yurie Nagashima, traveled to Bangalore, India to accept the award for the Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative for 2015. Ms. Nagashima is the only foreigner in a team of 16 that have managed daily operations at Kinyei for the past two-and-a-half years. 

Conceived in 2009 by Melina Chan, Justin Lorenzon and Katie Hallaran, Kinyei – which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary – aims to create sustainable social change through youth-focused social enterprises and responsible tourism practices. They choose projects to fit the needs of the local community, and define themselves as an alternative to problematic development projects that are unfortunately common in Cambodia.
Long-term Focus

Ms. Hallaran explains that many businesses and business plans are short term and shortsighted. Kinyei wants their business to be long term and they want their staff to think long term about their individual business goals. 

“We have reached a turning point where local ownership is a reality,” Ms. Hallaran says enthusiastically. “Our staff is engaged and passionate about these purpose-driven projects. They can see the value in making connections and forging their own career paths. They want to leave a legacy.”

Café manager and finance student Leng “Yong” Chhoeurt, 26 – from Svay Chrum village in Kompong Lpou commune – is on track to take over ownership of the café from Kinyei’s foreign founders in the next year. Mr. Yong says Battambang is special because businesses join forces to do better together than they would if they worked in competition. 

Sharing Beans

Of their ongoing relationship with Jaan Bai restaurant, Mr. Yong explains: “We have good coffee. We have shared our coffee, and we have taught their staff how to make coffee, as well. I didn’t have enough coffee today, so Jaan Bai lent us coffee.” 

“We’ve always done really strange things,” Ms. Hallaran insists. “Since the beginning, we asked our staff what they want to do. There is no precedent for the question, what would make you happy? We get real answers now.”

Vann Narak, 24 and from Prey Konsek village in Au Cha district, works in the café. What makes Ms. Vann happy, however, may not be the thing that shapes her future. Her mother, she explains, wants Ms.Vann to join her in Thailand working for an electric company. “I would like to work in and learn from other countries, but I would be most happy to have my own import and export business,” Ms. Vann said on Sunday.

To win in their category, Kinyei beat CBT Vietnam and the Cambodia-based EXO Foundation. 

Kratie and Stung Treng-based CRD Tours was a finalist in the Best in Community Engagement and Development category. 

Following the cafe’s second national win in Phnom Penh at the CRA Cambodia Barista Championships, last April, Kinyei barista Sakana Long represented Cambodia in a competition against the region’s best baristas at the FHA 2014 Barista Challenge in Singapore.

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