Interview with Mr. Guichandut Jacques, Managing Director of  All Dreams Cambodia and Vice-Chairman of EuroCham Tourism & Hospitality Committee 

This week we met with Mr. Guichandut Jacques to learn about his company's investment journey in Cambodia, as well as his thoughts on the current state of tourism and hospitality in Cambodia and what he would advise those considering investing in Cambodia.

1. Could you tell us about All Dreams Cambodia journey operation in Cambodia?

Created in 2013, we are a Destination Management Company that only offers and promotes Cambodia. We encourage our clients mainly tours operators and/or travel agencies around the world (B2B Business Model), to feature and offer Cambodia to their clientele, so they will visit and spend their holidays only in Cambodia.

Having kept all our 45 staff members since the start of Covid-19, we have adapted our business model by creating a new department for the local market targeting high-end Khmer clients, ALL DREAMS A WAY OF LIFE, and developing an activity to offer team buildings to local & international companies under the brand name UBIQUEST. Above all, we have spent time to propose a more responsible and eco-friendly tourism. We have obtained the Travel Life label and are the first agency in Cambodia that is able to calculate the carbon impact for each of our programs. We are now working with the Ministry of Environment to offset this impact by purchasing carbon neutrality here in Cambodia. We also became more digital-oriented and created some Virtual Experiences together with our partner Beyond Limits.

2. What makes you choose Cambodia as your destination for investment?

I am in Cambodia since 1995, I had not planned to stay but opportunities helped me to see that the country had a lot to offer and that with time the potential would be huge. Having acquired over the years a very profound knowledge of the country, I was able to adapt programs corresponding to the expectations of our European, American and regional markets.  Especially in the most complicated situations, where you think you are not going to succeed, I always found, in the end, the solution(s) to move forward. I was also very lucky to meet Cambodians who always supported, encouraged and trusted me. Without this support, this trust that has been created over the years, I would never be where I am now. It is not for nothing that I chose ALL Dreams Cambodia as the name of my company.

3. What are your thoughts on the current industry, given your extensive expertise in the tourism and hospitality sector?

The sector is going through a unique and very complicated moment. Many of us have given up, changed direction because it is very difficult to set this out more than 2 years. After the beginning of Covid-19, I went a few months through a period of questioning. But I found in myself the strength and, thanks to my teams, business partners and friends, bounced back and reoriented myself while remaining in the field of tourism.

The power and the charm of Cambodia are the Cambodians... it is a unique people, who, despite a more than painful past, was able to get up and move forward. This is why I am fighting for this country not to be seen as an extension of a trip to Vietnam or Thailand but as a real stand-alone destination. Because all the feedback we have from our clients... apart from the extraordinary site of Angkor, is about the authenticity of the Khmer people. Our clients leave with this memory of Khmer hospitality that has impressed them. Unfortunately, this essential aspect has never been put forward. However today, what people are looking for in this increasingly digitalized world, is to find real human contact, a real relationship, a real smile... That's why I remain optimistic about the future. The road is still long, but I know that the Khmer soul is watching over us.

4. What advice would you provide to those looking to invest in the tourism industry?

To give a recommendation to future investors... not easy... first spending time to well analyze the situation, meeting a maximum of stakeholders in this field, to have the best possible idea of the market specific to the destination. Then be sure that the business model chosen is well suited to Cambodia and the targeted clientele. And the key to success is to associate with one or more local partners with whom you will have created a relationship of trust. This is in fact the most difficult.

5. What factors could contribute to reshaping the industry? Especially, how could Cambodia become a sustainable tourist destination and how can we ensure that the industry embraces a future - proof agenda?

Since the reopening of the country, both the private sector and the authorities realized that Cambodia is too dependent on our western markets from our Vietnamese and Thai neighbours. Why?  Because for a majority of international tourists Cambodia is Angkor, therefore 3 days are enough and it is essentially a cultural destination... But what does culture today represent in the world of tourism? What are travelers looking for... in the end for very little culture... or just enough to have a selfie in front of Angkor and then go elsewhere.

The image of the country must change, we must not promote Angkor anymore, because everyone knows Angkor... we must reinvent the image of the country, have a more aggressive promotion campaign, allocate real funds for this purpose. Thailand has done this for decades with TAT, an independent organization of the MOT, which has big funds to promote the country. 

We have as many assets as our neighbours, or even more... but this has never been properly analyzed and promoted. However, I would say that thanks to the Coronavirus all these communication weaknesses of the past will be transformed into today’s strengths. Our Prime Minister, who has a perfect knowledge of his country and its people, was able to make the right decisions, resulting in an exemplary vaccination campaign, allowing him to open the country with the best possible conditions, which we would have never dreamed of. He gave us all the cards in hand... however, today it is the communication, the social networks that guide this world. There is now an enormous amount of work to do so that soon Cambodia can take its true place in the world of tourism. 

Many projects are being implemented by the government and the private sector to offer a more responsible tourism closer to nature. While for years this was not the government’s priority, since a few months I perceive a real desire to go in this direction, a real political will to change this vision. When we see the transformations done in Siem Reap and Angkor Park, all the big infrastructure works to put in place since 2 years during the pandemic, I wonder which country during these 2 years has done so much for its people and improved their daily life.  I think I will stay here for many more years to come because All my Dreams are here.


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