In the leafy French Quarter of Siem Reap, between the Royal Gardens and the Old Market area, Shinta Mani Angkor and the Bensley Collection Pool Villas are a short walk from the river and 15 minutes from the heritage-listed temples of Angkor Wat UNESCO World.
And while the upscale property oozes sophistication and style, there’s more to this place than meets the eye.
Not only is it an ultra luxurious place to stay, but the boutique hotel exists to support the wider Cambodian community through the Shinta Mani Foundation.
Founded by Cambodian businessman and philanthropist Sokoun Chanpreda, the Shinta Mani Foundation began as a hospitality school in Siem Reap in 2004. This innovative program, which has received international recognition for its efforts, has trained underprivileged Cambodians in all aspects of world-class hotel operations. on a free basis – providing them with the skills to find a job and enjoy a better future.
Since then, the foundation has become a multi-faceted champion for social good and is a recognized non-profit organization in Cambodia. Today, the foundation continues to train locals in hospitality while focusing on empowering families through a number of education, health and development programs, and micro-financing opportunities for interested and qualified people.
For Sokoun, the Shinta Mani Foundation is something he is exceptionally proud of and he hopes it will continue for many years to come.
“It always makes me proud when I meet alumni of the foundation who work in a well-known international hotel or restaurant,” says Sokoun.
“They always come to thank me for the opportunity they received from the training offered by our foundation. Not only has this allowed them to find employment in the hospitality industry, but it means they can also send their siblings to school.
“I hope the foundation will continue to identify the needs of our local community and do its part to meet those needs for many years to come.”
Charting the course for a better future
For Sokoun, who fled Cambodia as a child in 1970 when civil war broke out, his drive to succeed in business is just as strong as his desire to do good.
Having never really known Thailand except as his homeland, Sokoun made the decision to return to Cambodia in the early 1990s as part of a humanitarian effort to help the desolate in Phnom Penh. At the time, Cambodia was just opening up after decades of war and the Khmer Rouge genocide, which wiped out a generation of leaders, teachers and intellectuals.
“The whole country was ground zero, there was so much to do,” Sokoun says.
Once he saw the possibilities Cambodia held, Sokoun decided to stay and start a construction business. Soon after, his destiny as a hotelier came to fruition when he was asked to revamp one of Siem Reap’s most famous hotels, Hotel De La Paix.
With an innate desire to help others, Sokoun saw this as an opportunity to involve local Cambodians in the construction process and improve their quality of life. At the same time, he was introduced to legendary architect and interior designer Bill Bensley, who Sokoun eventually asked to design the entire hotel.
When the hotel opened its doors, everyone was blown away by its design, and even more amazed that the local Cambodians had brought it to life. Not only did this see Sokoun and Bill form a business partnership that still exists today, but it inspired Sokoun to create a brand with the Cambodian people at its heart, which is exactly what branding is all about. Shinta Mani.
Today, Shinta Mani Hotels fully support the Shinta Mani Foundation, with 100% of all donations providing direct assistance to underprivileged Cambodians. Thus, when you choose to stay in a Shinta Mani hotel, you are already contributing to the development of Cambodia.
Siem Reap ready to welcome tourists again
Like many countries around the world, the impact of the pandemic has been felt hard in Cambodia, especially in a city like Siem Reap, where its economy relies almost exclusively on tourism. However, as the situation slowly begins to improve, Sokoun says the city is ready to welcome tourists again.
“If you visited Cambodia before COVID-19, please come back,” he says. “Over the past two years, the country’s infrastructure has further developed.
“The whole of Siem Reap has new roads with fiber optic cable ready for 5G technology. People can’t wait to welcome Aussies back, you will be treated like royalty.
Marrying luxury hospitality with philanthropy, Sokoun says guests are treated like royalty. At the moment, those traveling to Siem Reap in Cambodia and staying at the Shinta Mani Angkor and Bensley Collection Pool Villas can book a package starting at $845 (US$599) per night that includes a large villa with a private pool, a separate bedroom and bathroom pavilions. and a rooftop lounge, butler service, breakfasts, transfers, massage for two, cooking class for two, daily laundry, and other perks.
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For more information on the Shinta Mani Foundation: shintamanifoundation.org