Luxury changes by the day
Being responsible makes sense commercially
Christian de Boer is a pioneer in the global hotel industry. The Dutchman is working on his life project, Jaya House River Park close to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and has the ability to create an atmosphere and a meaningful universe for his guests and employees.
When you step in through the front door, you find yourself surrounded by beautiful lotus flowers and the director is often there to carry your suitcase. The reception is a lively and ambient place. Surrounded by beautiful local paintings, you feel the warmth and confidence. The smiling staff will let you know how it works at the hotel - which is quite unusual:
- You do not have to pre-register your credit card as a guarantee. They trust you.
- Minibar, breakfast, and laundry are all included. It just makes things easier and it feels good, too.
The small, clever, and simple elements appear throughout your stay. At the same time, you feel the owner's enthusiasm for Cambodia and his sense of responsibility for his employees. Jaya House River Park became one of the absolute highlights of my Cambodia trip, a completely unique place to stay. And the cost was 1/3 of what a classic luxury hotel would have cost.
This is how Lars Mathiasen (LM) explains his memorable experience at a hotel that, like few, has managed to elevate customer service to an art form. He had a talk with Christian de Boer (CDB) about how to create that experience and what he thinks about the future.
Trust in people
The Dutch hotel owner has done it before. He was the man behind the Shinta Mani hotel, also in Siem Reap, which quickly became an icon amongst guests and industry professionals thanks in part to sublime service and an exquisite sense of atmosphere. The hotel became the world's second-highest-rated accommodation option on Tripadvisor. Christian de Boer subsequently found himself a piece of land on the outskirts of Siem Reap within cycling distance of Angkor Wat's mythical ruins. An oasis of a 36-room hotel was created. Beautiful and timeless design where the French style respectfully meets the Cambodian Khmer universe. But it is the little things, combined with the hotel staff, that create lasting memories.
It's all about people
LM: How do you create that atmosphere in the hotel, and not least in your employees?
CDB: I do not do it myself. It's all about people. We believe in people, we train, develop and take care of them. It's not a job. It's my life. The day it becomes a job, I stop. Cambodians are the most amazing people on the planet. I create a framework and have no long-term action plan, no KPIs, or thoughts about leaving. This creates trust amongst the employees, which you can also feel as a guest.
The luxury concept
LM: How do you define luxury?
CDB: Luxury changes by the day. This morning, a married couple was interested in Buddhism. I sent the couple on a trip with our receptionist. She took them by tuk-tuk to her home village and visited their local monk. At the foot of the local pagoda, they had a long conversation about the cornerstones of Buddhism. Everyone had an experience and got to know each other better. That was luxury today. Tomorrow it will be something else. It also answers why a large chain cannot create luxury. It's impossible to do these things for a bigger chain.
The guests are our marketing department
LM: How do you sell it?
CDB: We have no sales department. We do not attend trade fairs and do not advertise. We treat our guests with respect, as you would like to be treated yourself. Everyone is equally important. We are passionate and always on. Guests and staff must feel equal and comfortable. Then we ask our guests to tell their friends and to review us on Tripadvisor. In the few years we have been operating, we have received 2200 reviews. No 1, 2, or 3 stars. 19 has given us 4 stars and 2181 has been nice to give us 5 stars. This is our marketing department.
Why listen to Christian de Boer?
Christian de Boer has worked for some of the world's best hotels, including Song Saa and Shinta Mani in Cambodia. Shinta Mani is ranked as one of the best hotels in the world. For many years, he has operated a unique hotel, Jaya House River Park, which addresses a modern form of tourism.
De Boer is also the founder of the organization “Refill not Landfill”, which works to abolish all use of “single-use plastic.” The organization is currently present in 18 countries, and Christian de Boer is instrumental in the fight against plastic.
Tourism done right
LM: Are you optimistic about the future of Cambodia and responsible tourism?
CDB: I am very optimistic. There are more and more people and places, who are doing it right. It makes commercial sense, too, to be responsible. It is an integral part of the modern consumer's purchasing decision. It's about getting the money to stay in the local community, and thereby create circles in the Cambodian economy. We produce everything from soap to shampoo together with local partners. We find our suppliers locally and can follow the process. It ensures a local and lasting effect.
LM: What's your favorite place when not in Siem Reap?
CDB: The Siam in Bangkok is a unique hotel on every level, and my absolute favorite hotel right now. It's not a hotel. It's an experience.