There’s a lot more soul to this ho­tel than just lux­ury


There’s more soul to bou­tique ho­tel group Shinta Mani than just lux­ury

From lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion, great food, mem­o­rable ex­cur­sions and in­dul­gent pam­per­ing, great guest ex­pe­ri­ences are the goal of most lux­ury ho­tels in Asia. But be­hind the scenes, many of them also go the ex­tra un­seen and un­sung mile of giv­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ties they work in, some more so than oth­ers. Lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel group Shinta Mani in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is an im­pres­sive ex­am­ple. In its port­fo­lio are bou­tique ho­tels Shinta Mani Shack and Shinta Mani Angkor in Siem Reap, as well as up­com­ing Shinta Mani Angkor Bill Bens­ley Collection and Shinta Mani Wild, both of which open late this year.

While high-end hol­i­day-mak­ers en­joy pam­per­ing stays at its prop­er­ties, part of the Shinta Mani Group’s rev­enue funds its own foun­da­tion, which runs a plethora of com­mu­nity pro­grammes mainly in the form of ed­u­ca­tion, health­care pro­grammes and ‘di­rect as­sis­tance’.

The Shinta Mani Foun­da­tion (SMF) was founded in 2004 by Sok­oun Chan­preda, a Cam­bo­dian busi­ness­man and the owner of the Shinta Mani ho­tels. This not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion started on the grounds of the group’s first ho­tel, the Shinta Mani Shack, in the form of its own hos­pi­tal­ity school—one of the first in the coun­try. Here, un­der­priv­i­leged stu­dents are taught in­ter­na­tional-stan­dard ho­tel op­er­a­tions free of charge, with their meals, ac­com­mo­da­tion and ma­te­ri­als pro­vided and a small stipend of money and rice given to help their fam­i­lies. Says Brad Akins, Di­rec­tor of Shinta Mani Foun­da­tion, “We work to­gether with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to find at-risk stu­dents—at risk of be­ing taken ad­van­tage of. These in­clude women, which com­prise 50 per cent or more of our stu­dents, or­phans and dis­placed peo­ple.”

Stu­dents would be picked based on their de­sire to learn, their needs and suit­abil­ity. Once in, they are taught skills in ar­eas rang­ing from culi­nary and house­keep­ing to front of­fice and spa therapy, as well as English, com­puter and gen­eral life skills, in­clud­ing per­sonal fi­nance and health. The 10-month train­ing pro­gramme sees about 24 stu­dents each year. The idea is clear—to give the un­der­priv­i­leged youth a leg up in life, and the skills to find mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment for them­selves.

While Shinta Mani ho­tels hire many of their own grad­u­ates—a tes­ti­mony of putting your money where your mouth is—a low turnover of staff pre­vents them from hir­ing more. How­ever, Akins says they have a “100 per cent hir­ing rate from grad­u­a­tion”, with most grad­u­ates find­ing em­ploy­ment in other ho­tels in the area, in­clud­ing “three of the largest in­ter­na­tional ho­tel chains in Siem Reap”.

The SMF has the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing that their im­pact is long term, and has helped push local stan­dards in tourism. “We have for­mer stu­dents work­ing all over Siem Reap and many in re­ally good ho­tels in good po­si­tions. I know of for­mer stu­dents who are now gen­eral man­agers of small ho­tels,

ex­ec­u­tive chefs [spe­cial­is­ing in] Kh­mer food, rooms di­rec­tors. It is re­ally cool to see them do­ing well,” he adds.

With tourism be­ing one of the largest en­gines of Cambodia’s econ­omy, the hos­pi­tal­ity school has made sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. “I think we helped set the stan­dard [in the ho­tel scene] here in Siem Reap,” says Akins. “We were among the first to pro­vide hos­pi­tal­ity train­ing, and it’s some­thing that has re­ally grown with so many or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer­ing cour­ses and train­ing now. And, I think be­cause of our ex­am­ple and the at­ten­tion we had re­ceived for the pro­grams, we had a hand in en­cour­ag­ing this de­vel­op­ment. Be­cause these stu­dents and oth­ers like them have be­come so pro­fi­cient in their work, it has had a di­rect im­pact on the guest’s ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s been re­ally good for the en­tire com­mu­nity.”

And then, there’s its ‘small busi­ness start-up’ pro­gramme which of­fers mi­cro­fi­nance loans to start a busi­ness or get a univer­sity de­gree. The SMF has given a leg-up to over 60 small busi­nesses to date, rang­ing from farms and tai­lors and food shops, to mo­tor­cy­cle re­pair work­shops and tuk-tuks. Ac­cord­ing to them, re­pay­ment of loans are used to fund new ones.


Not long ago, the foun­da­tion ex­panded its ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme by set­ting up the Farm­ing De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre to help im­prove the lot of young Kh­mer vil­lagers in the coun­try­side. Col­lab­o­rat­ing with the World Veg­etable Cen­ter and the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID), it is re­search­ing veg­etable va­ri­etals that can thrive in the coun­try’s harsh cli­mate and pro­duc­ing seed kits to grow home gar­dens de­signed to feed a fam­ily of four with their daily veg­etable nu­tri­ent in­take. With this, the

foun­da­tion plans to teach 1,900 fam­i­lies in the Siem Reap area to grow their own veg­eta­bles. In this way, it hopes to help cre­ate a sus­tain­able food sup­ply and re­duce mal­nu­tri­tion in the coun­try­side.

The foun­da­tion also works with in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions to bring in den­tists and doc­tors to pro­vide med­i­cal check-ups and treat­ments to vil­lagers in ru­ral ar­eas, without which many ail­ments would go un­treated. More re­cently, the foun­da­tion, with the help of renowned de­signer Bill Bens­ley and busi­ness con­cern Kohler Ex­ec­u­tives, pro­vided over 300 wa­ter fil­ters which pro­vide clean wa­ter to health cen­tres and hos­pi­tals, schools for dis­placed chil­dren and in-need fam­i­lies.


Cur­rently, Shinta Mani is busy open­ing a new re­sort, Shinta Mani Wild – Bens­ley Collection, a lux­ury tented camp re­sort in the wilder­ness of Tmor Rung, two hours’ drive from Phnom Penh. Com­pris­ing 16 el­e­vated lux­ury tents and lo­cated along 1.5 kilo­me­tres of river and wa­ter­falls, the re­sort is where guests can “feast on del­i­ca­cies grown and for­aged from the sur­round­ing land and en­counter ex­tra­or­di­nary wildlife”.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the sus­tain­able tourism re­sort will also dou­ble up as a re­search and con­ser­va­tion cen­tre. Ac­cord­ing to Akins, they are hop­ing to part­ner with a great or­gan­i­sa­tion for an­i­mal pro­tec­tion and forestry. “But it’s also a com­mu­nity project. We want the local peo­ple to re­alise how im­por­tant their nat­u­ral habi­tat is, and if taken care of, how it can also pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­ploy­ment,” he says.

Clev­erly in­te­grat­ing Shinta Mani’s not-for-profit ac­tiv­i­ties with its for-profit ho­tel op­er­a­tions, Shinta Mani has helped about 1,400 fam­i­lies get ac­cess to clean wa­ter, treated over 12,000 stu­dents in its den­tal clin­ics, given 60 en­trepreneurs loans to start a busi­ness, built 99 homes for fam­i­lies, given out over 800 bi­cy­cles for stu­dents and fam­i­lies, and helped build schools. For Akins, though, num­bers alone are not that im­por­tant. “Our stated vi­sion is to see a strong pros­per­ous Cambodia where each in­di­vid­ual has ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the bet­ter­ment of their lives... And we are see­ing it, fam­ily by fam­ily, us­ing what little help we can give, pulling them­selves out of poverty and giv­ing their chil­dren a bet­ter future.”

Above Cel­e­brated de­signer Bill Bens­ley dur­ing his visit to SMF vil­lage

Above Shinta Mani Angkor

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