Boutique Hotel Cooperative for Sustainable Tourism
Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
What is the innovation and how does it address a pressing problem?
In the thirteen years since Cambodia has established itself as a peaceful, stable nation, the tourism sector has expanded rapidly. Over 3.5 million tourists visit Cambodia every year, with both positive and negative impact. On the one hand, the influx of tourists supports the economy. On the other hand, the economy that grows around tourism is not always for the social benefit—for example the expansion of “orphanage tourism.” Further, the dynamism of the economy in the tourism sector does not automatically foster growth in other sectors of the economy.
Soria Moria Boutique hotel is a cooperatively owned hotel for sustainable tourism. Soria Moria hires employees from the poorest parts of Cambodian society. An employee will start out at the bottom of the employment ladder, for example as a dishwasher or a housecleaner. From the time that they are hired, they are being trained in business skills tailored for the tourism industry. Employees are expected to graduate to roles with more responsibility, potentially leading to management positions. After one year of being employed at the hotel, employees become shareholders. In total, employees hold a 51% stake in the business.
In addition, all of the goods used at the hotel are sourced through sustainable local business practices, and profit from specific hotel activities go to local community development.
Soria Moria operates as a social enterprise, and is completely sustainable through its business activity.
What existing practices inspired the innovation and how does it represent something new?
The founder of Soria Moria has had a long career in the hospitality business. Through her work in Cambodia, she recognized three things. First, the potential for expanding tourism in Cambodia is enormous. Second, the social impact of the rise in tourism is not necessarily positive. Third, while there is a large international development community in Cambodia, it does not engage in any meaningful way with the tourism sector. Soria Moria’s model successfully combines best practice in several areas:
• The hotel itself was developed based on deep expertise in the hospitality sector.
• The Soria Moria model adapts ideas from the fields of business and social enterprise. In particular, the Soria Moria combines a cooperative ownership model with an “employee elevator program,” where employees are expected to be promoted up through the ranks of the business. Unlike many businesses, Soria Moria starts the training at the very bottom.
• Soria Moria’s social investments are based on best practice in international development, including adopting a results-based approach to community development in underserved areas of Cambodia.
Please describe the social impact to date, as well as potential impact in the future.
Currently, there are 30 employees owners of Soria Moria, hired from poor families, often with low education. The hotel creates secure employment and good working conditions to local employees, and encourages career development within the business. For example, Roeun Samnieng started his career at Soria Moria washing dishes in the kitchen. Because of the war, Samnieng was 13 when he started primary school and had to begin working 5 years later. At Soria Moria, he quickly moved up the ranks, and is now a Director and part-owner. In addition, he has just completed a Bachelor of Finance and Banking.
Soria Moria also is active with the local community on many levels—first in selecting suppliers that have direct and positive impact on people’s lives. For example, all furniture for the outdoor restaurant and rooftop bar were made by a vocational training program for young disadvantaged men.
In addition, Soria Moria’s income from specific add-ons to their business, such as the rental of bicycles and sale of cards goes to a local non-profit which supports clean water access. Through this partnership, more than 7,500 people have gained access to clean water.
Soria Moria actively promotes its business model through outreach and an employee exchange programs. The model thus also has the potential to influence responsible tourism more broadly in Cambodia and in other tourist-hot spots in resource-poor countries.