“More understated, more adventurous”: the future of luxury tourism in Cambodia

We talk to Shinta Mani Hotels' director of operations

Jason Friedman is the managing director of J.M. Friedman and Co. and thus the director of operations for Shinta Mani Hotels. With previous credentials including acting as the opening GM of The Siam in Bangkok, Friedman knows a thing or two about luxury Asian accommodation.

We asked him about what luxury means to him and the industry, and what it will continue to mean in the years to come:

TD: What do you see as the future of luxury tourism in Cambodia?

The future of luxury in Cambodia will have two very distinct branches. There will be the mass-market Chinese casinos with all of the high rollers and bling that comes with it. Then there will be the sophisticated luxury that is more understated, more adventurous and will focus on the amazing culture, communities and abundant natural areas that Cambodia has.

It’s the latter that we will focus on. As Thailand becomes overdeveloped, the intrepid, sophisticated, luxury traveller is looking for untouched and untrammeled places to explore and experience. Cambodia has no shortage of these beautiful places and eager people excited to share their cultural and natural heritage.

Why does 2019 represent such a watershed year for tourism into the Kingdom?

2019 is when Cambodia went from being a one-destination country to being a multiple-destination country (at the sophisticated luxury level). For so many years, luxury tourism in Cambodia was limited to Siem Reap and a handful of operations in other parts of the country.

With the recent openings of Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild, Alila, Six Senses and Rosewood, Cambodia can now offer the luxury traveller a seamless and diverse luxury experience. Jungle camps in Koh Kong, private island escapes and urban luxury at its best – for the first time Cambodia has it all.

The door is now open so we can expect development of sophisticated adventures, as there is no shortage of gorgeous places and communities that want to share their beauty with the world.

What makes the Bensley Collection Hotels stand out from the crowd?

The Bensley Collection is unique in that it was set up as a philanthropic venture to provide high quality jobs for Cambodians. Wild, which is set in an 800-acre private nature sanctuary in a four-million-acre park, is the only legal opportunity for the sparse population to have a proper job and opportunity for a career without having to migrate to an urban area.

Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild was set up to provide protection and regeneration to an important wild area as well as jobs for a community that has very few options. The goal of the Bensley Collection is to benefit the communities they are built in long after we are gone.

Could you suggest an itinerary for the ultimate luxury Cambodian adventure?

The ultimate luxury adventure in Cambodia is the one that gives you maximum adventure and diversity with easy access and transfers. Start your journey with a three-night stay at Bensley Collection – Siem Reap as you explore Angkor Wat and indulge in Siem Reap’s fabulous dining, shopping and party scene.

Next stop is rest and recuperation at Six Senses gorgeous private island, only an hour flight and 10 minute boat ride from the temples of Angkor. Once fully rested and recharged drive two hours to Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild for a luxury eco-adventure in the heart of S.E. Asia’s last great wilderness areas.

Three nights of adventure later, it’s time to drive up to Phnom Penh to bask in the urban luxury of the region’s finest urban hotel, Rosewood Phnom Penh. It’s so good you just might not want to leave! A great option to end the Cambodian adventure is to hop on the Aqua Expeditions boat for a cruise down the Mekong to Vietnam. What an incredible journey – that was not possible before.

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