The View from Cambodia
We're spoilt when it comes to having some lovely, enthusiastic guides all around the world. But with the pandemic affecting travel the way it has, we've been reaching out to check in and see how everyone has been coping during this time. With every country handling things differently, they've been giving us an insight into how it is on the ground, what their hopes are for a return to travel and what they'd expect of visitors once things get back to normal. This week, we've spoken to our wonderful guide in Cambodia, Narla.
The pandemic seems to have affected some countries in more severe ways than others, how has it been in Cambodia?
The Covid-19 pandemic has truly brought a huge negative impact on everyone around the globe. It has been very tough for Cambodia since the outbreak. Everyone has been affected either directly or indirectly. Schools, markets, restaurants, most tourism sites and many places have been closed. The country borders are sealed. Lots of people, especially in the tourism industry, lost their jobs.
Outside the lack of tourists, how has Covid had a significant impact on your daily life?
Covid-19 bought a significant impact on our daily life. It completely changed the way I live, I can’t do the job that I love and I can’t really do the face to face networking with people within the same sector like I used to.
How have you stayed positive during this time? Have you taken up any new hobbies or projects?
I have always tried to stay positive during this time and will be in the future too. I truly believe one day we will be able to have our life back with the addition of higher hygiene standards that we all need to follow. Photography has always been my favourite hobby, I love going out to capture the beautiful parts of the city where I live and other places. I’ve learnt so much more during this time about photography from angles, lighting and technique to retouching. I’m also doing digital marketing for my wife’s online jewellery business. These are things that keep me busy all day.
What do you miss most about welcoming travellers to your country?
I miss everyone’s smile when they arrive in and depart Cambodia. I met almost all of the clients who travel with the company to Cambodia. I miss the moment when they share their experiences during their trip about the beauty of the country and how welcoming Cambodian people are. Those are the things I miss the most.
Have you been vaccinated? Has most of your community?
I have been vaccinated, first and second doses. However, the government just announced that we will need to do the third which I’m still on the waiting list for. About 80% of people in Cambodia are vaccinated.
How do you see the pandemic changing the way you lead tours?
Once travel is back we all know that things will be practised a little differently. Of course, as tour operators, we need to work closely with suppliers such as hotels, restaurants, sites to make sure they’re all following guidelines regarding hygiene to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Our ground team, guides and drivers also need to follow our company guidelines when they’re on tour with clients.
Where or who are you most excited to see again on your tours once things return to normal?
Once things return to normal, I’m excited to spend some time on some islands in the south of the country. Also, I cannot wait to see my boss, friend, sister, Jonny, Anna and Andrea in person in Cambodia, so we could do some tours together here.
Is there anything you’d like to see foreign travellers do when they return – wear masks, not shake hands, stay outside of your community?
I would like to see foreign travellers get vaccinated before they return. I would like to have them in the community. I believe as much as they follow the hygiene standard by cleaning hands all the time, I think wearing masks is something we should wait and see about in the upcoming result. I’m not sure how foreign travellers could handle the heat in Cambodia wearing a mask at all times. They don’t have to shake hands if they’re unsure but greeting in the local culture, which doesn’t require physical contact, is very much appreciated.
When do you predict that foreign travellers - in any significant numbers - will be able to start returning to your country?
It’s hard to predict but with Covid rates quite low at present and the government here has just halved quarantine times, I hope it won't be long. If things stay on the current path I hope some might be able to return by the end of this year, more in the spring, but the main season will be autumn 2022. The Ministry Of Tourism in Cambodia has a master plan in place, so we are ready to welcome everyone back.
If people want to help, are there any local projects that you're aware of - or perhaps work with - that you could recommend for people to support?
People need a lot of support during this time. I am a board member of a non-profit called Journeys Within Our Community – JWOC. JWOC is working closely with youths to support their education before and during the pandemic.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I really appreciate everyone being positive about the future of travel. As I mentioned, I still believe we will be able to return to normal, so we could create jobs and see everyone smile again. Thank you for letting me be part of the team. Thank you very much for your support as always. Stay well and safe!