18 years ago, I first heard of Cambodia. I was reading a Zoobook about dolphins and how Cambodia had endangered fresh water dolphins. They are actually called Irrawaddy dolphins. Ever since then I’ve wanted to see them. Recently, three girlfriends and I made the five hour bus ride to the town of Kratie to see the Irrawaddy dolphins.
Honestly, it was an awesome time. The first night we watched the dolphins during sunset on a traditional Khmer boat. The second day, we spend the entire afternoon kayaking in the Mekong River with dolphins. I had so much fun handing out with these women, laughing, and crossing off a huge item off my bucket list. (Up next: Drinking 100 year old scotch on 100,000 year old ice in Antartica – who is with me?)
Another great thing about going to Kratie? We stayed in this awesome training hotel, Le Tonle Guesthouse.
Le Tonle Guesthouse is more than just a guest house. Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center is a not-for-profit training guest house providing vocational training to disadvantaged youth from Cambodia’s north-eastern provinces of Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri. The guest house and restaurant in Kratie provide vital vocational training and a unique opportunity for travelers to support human resource development in Cambodia. When you stay with Tonlé and support their trainees.
Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center is also a 13 rooms guesthouse located in the center of Kratie. Danielle and I stayed in a double bed with a shared bathroom and AC and Stefanie and Kat stayed in a double bed with a private bathroom and AC. Honestly, both were great. They also have a restaurant providing Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Their restaurant offers traditional Khmer dishes and western food. (I think the crowd favorite was the mango spring rolls with caramel sauce).
Le Tonlé was founded by Tourism for Help (TfH) in 2007 in Stung Treng. In the first five years under the direct management and operation from TfH, 63 trainees (30 women) successfully undertook the one year training course. From October 1, 2012, the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) took over the project from TfH under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and agreements with the funding support from the Fédération Genevoise de Coopération (FGC) based in Switzerland and supervised by TfH. Another 36 students (20 women) successfully finished the training course under management of CRDT.
Le Tonlé TTC also builds a stable partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Provincial Department of Tourism, Mekong Discovery Trail Project and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). Le Tonlé TTC received in 2016 the certificate of ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for Tourism Professionals from the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.
To expand the impact scope and provide more opportunities in different aspects of tourism and hospitality, a second Le Tonlé center was established in Kratie town in late 2013. The new training center is equipped with practical facilities such as kitchen, a classroom, a welcoming ground floor restaurant, and a classic nine bedroom guesthouse in a traditional wooden stilt house. In 2014, CRDT decided to focus its efforts on the guesthouse in Kratie, which hosts more tourists, and closed the Stung Treng guesthouse.
Aims & Objectives of the Le Tonlé are simple:
- To contribute to poverty reduction and ecological conservation of Cambodia by introducing responsible, sustainable tourism and by training the local population to cater for tourists.
- To give theoretical and practical training to young disadvantaged Cambodians in the different areas of tourism professions to enable them to obtain varied and worthwhile careers.
- To provide quality training in response to the requirements of tourism professionals in Cambodia.
- To integrate the values of responsible tourism in the training.
The Le Tonlé training model is Learning by Doing, and our 12 month training course covers a range of industry-specific subjects.
- Theoretical classes: General English, English for Tourism, Administration & Invoicing, Computer Literacy, Service Excellence, and Ecology.
- Practical classes: Hygiene, First Aid, House-keeping, Cooking & Food Preparation, Food & Beverage service, Front Office & Reception, and Job Application & CV Development.
Since its inception, 121 students (63 female) have graduated from the 12 month Le Tonlé training program. 95% of their trainees found work after graduation in guest houses, hotels, restaurants and other tourism providers in the provinces of Stung Treng, Kratie and Ratanakiri.
Hospitality skills are sorely lacking in Cambodia, simply because of the lack of training institutes focusing on vocation skills. Despite year on year growth of tourist arrivals, and ever growing number of guest houses, hotels, and tourism providers, there is a deficit of suitably skilled staff. The training provided by Le Tonlé equips students with job-ready skills, and employers and tourism operators in the north-east welcome the skills and enthusiasm their graduates bring to their new careers.
Want to hear Kat and I singing Justin Beiber? Check this video out: