How are our hosts doing in the crisis?
When we looked at our bookings at the beginning of March, we were euphoric: the trend was upwards and we were optimistic that we have now managed to establish our project in the market. With travel restrictions changing rapidly, we lost all of our bookings. As a young start-up with a very small team, we weren’t financially affected as we were other companies. But we are more than just the founders and our employees: Dine With The Locals is nothing without our host families. They are the foundation of our offer and we have an intimate connection with them. That is why we also choose hosts – they have to fit into the family.
With Covid-19, the income situation of our hosts has also changed. Of course they miss the money that they could also earn with Dine With The Locals. But some have also lost their full-time jobs or their customers. We therefore sent our team member Mealea to inquire about the condition.
The new restaurant of Hong Ginlai in Siem Reap
Vannak Khun in Phnom Penh mainly suffers from the fact that he is no longer able to attend events as an artist, which means that there are hardly any buyers for his paintings. He tries to reduce his costs and also offer pictures to Cambodians. Heng Naysim can still produce silk, but has trouble selling the products to tourists. Mony and her mother in Battambang have lost income from their homestay, and she cannot work as a teacher because the schools are closed.
No customers for Ms. Laum
Ms. Laum was hit hardest in Siem Reap. It used to sell waffles on the busy Sivutha Street, which is now deserted. Only a few loyal local customers come to her. Vannarith and her family were also hit hard because her husband was a Tuktuk driver in a hotel and has no customers. Her sister Srey Much, who is also our host, can still work in a coffee shop.
Hong Ginlai hit fate twice: Due to the closure of hotels and guest houses, she lost many customers in her street restaurant and then the restaurant itself was closed by the authorities and the streets were cleaned from the stalls. The good news: she found a new, even better place and opened her restaurant again. Thoun Vorleak, our seamstress, could no longer pay her rent because there were hardly any orders left – she had sewed wedding dresses, but hardly anyone goes to weddings. She is living with her sister for now. Saret and her family are lucky enough to have multiple incomes and can make some money with metal construction. Her sister Sarath currently has to stay at home as a teacher.
Angkor Wat itself is currently deserted, even the locals only come sporadically. Restaurants and stands there are also closed, as are most restaurants and hotels in Siem Reap. Tourism is the main source of income in Northern Cambodia, but also important for the country as a whole. At the same time, there is little help and many Cambodians have lost their jobs and the income they used to support their families. They have moved to relatives in the country and are trying to get through there.
We all sincerely hope that this crisis will end as soon as possible and that the Kingdom of Wonders lives up to its name. Tourists have never been so important: every dollar spent here when it starts again supports a Cambodian family.