How are you and your team and what are you doing during lockdown?
We are well considering the circumstances. With the temporary pause in receiving guests most of our staff are at home on various levels of reduced pay and a skeleton team on site innovating ways to improve - so once the time is right to welcome guests back we are ready and better than before.
The team on site are building a large organic farm and free range chicken run, including a specially designated cocktail farm and a flower farm.
We have committed to maintaining our financial and logistical support of the anti-poaching patrols and wildlife research with Wildlife Alliance and the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
I have just returned from a 4-day patrol deep inside Cardamom National Park with Wildlife Alliance hoping to deeper understand their needs and how we can better support them. During our time, we confiscated eight chainsaws, dismantled sixteen logging camps and two mini tractors, found remains of numerous poached animals and confiscated nearly twenty cubic meters of luxury timber that was on its way to the black market.
Our gibbon research is also ongoing and we are about to expand this further into the wild orchids that are abundant in our private nature sanctuary.
How do you envisage travel in the region over the next 3-12 months?
I envisage travel in the region to take quite some time to return to anywhere near 2019 numbers. Starting with the domestic market and slowly expanding into regional markets and finally western markets once trust in countries, airlines and the ways hotels conduct operations is regained.
It is near impossible to stipulate how this journey will look but as Australia and New Zealand and parts of Europe look at creating travel bubbles we may see the same here and in other parts of the world.
For the region, China will be a huge and important market for the immediate future once borders start to open.
Travellers will also expect to experience additional safety measures when they travel, higher airfares in the short- to mid-term and even the possibility of “immunity passports" and contact-tracing requirements. This may lead to people taking longer but less trips abroad, if at all. If countries open borders but maintain quarantine periods it will be devastating for the recovery of the tourism industry.
What positive outcomes will you take from this crisis?
I like to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook on the future and with a strong passion for environmentally and socially responsible travel. I hope there will be positives in what travellers' expect and demand from the places they visit.
I think travellers will do more research into the places they intend on staying and will be looking for places that care for their natural environments as well as local communities; hopefully they follow up with wanting to see and take part in some of these initiatives - and call out the trend of 'greenwashing' we have started seeing in the industry.
With social distancing being the new norm, I hope tourist sites such as Angkor Wat will reduce the number of daily visitors which will certainly improve visitor experience. This will also reduce the strain of wear and tear on these beautiful and fragile sites.
I also feel this has been a bit of a wake up call in regards to what we consume and travellers will be looking for establishments that produce their own organic produce or source from local communities. This would be hugely beneficial for reducing food miles and empowering local economies.
Sangjay Choegyal is the general manager at Bensley Collection - Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, a high-end adventure camp dedicated to protecting the flora and fauna of the surrounding jungle and rainforest.