Focus on a partner: Buffalo Tours

Bayon Pastry School is happy to work with the travel agency Buffalo Tours since January 2016. We have interviewed Panya Thin, Regional Manager of Buffalo Tours Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and Suy Vet, ETA project team leader in Cambodia.
Buffalo Tours
How did you get to work with Bayon Pastry School?
Buffalo Tours includes the ETA department: Educational Travel in Asia. It is about everything related to local community work. It helps us offer sustainable tourism. Before your school was officially open, two ladies came across our office to introduce the project. We were really interested because we are willing to support businesses which change people’s life. A few weeks later, I came over. Nothing was finished yet but I still found it was beautiful. The way you support those vulnerable women is such a meaningful way to do something. So, we convinced our agent to let us arrange this. And now, we serve your products to our customers!
In which context do you serve our products to our customers?
We get your products (croissants, financiers, cookies, ginger &cinnamon cakes) on the evening and serve them on the next morning in the temples, after our customers watched the sunrise on Angkor Wat. We drive them to another temple 10 minutes away and they can enjoy a whole breakfast buffet with your products and some coffee, tea and fresh fruits. We display the food on a long table and the people help themselves with a palm box. We don’t want to give them a plate. We thought of the palm box which makes more sense because we can recycle it and it is made in a village where one of my staff is from. It is more responsible.
Do you promote the fact that you work with our pastry school?
Actually, that breakfast is a small part of a whole tour that we provide. We clearly communicated with our agents and that’s why it has been great so far, but our customers do not know much about your products. We have your sign on the buffet (mentioning “Bayon Pastry School made these products”) but from what we see, the customers just want to enjoy the moment. The time and space are so limited, the tourists don’t really know what happens behind the scenes. They just enjoy the service and the good time. But at least, it’s a good thing for them to know that their money doesn’t go to all the big key players or suppliers (hotels, restaurants, flight tickets, cruises…). They can make sure that a part of their expenses actually benefits local people. As much as we think responsible travel is a good way of travelling, it is still not a mass market, in a common sense that people are looking for their comfort zone. Because of the time limit, they don’t really have time to do much of adventure activities or help social projects. So, Buffalo Tours tries to be a link which is sewing tourists and locals in some way.
Is Buffalo Tours particularly committed to work with NGO’s and social businesses?
In our tours, we believe that small things can mean big to us, to our customers and to our agent. Everything we do must add a meaning to our tours and hopefully the customers can see that. We work on a competitive market. We have a permanent person in charge of the ETA department in every country where we are established and they are trained every year. We are convinced that sustainable tourism is a competitive advantage. Being able to support communities, even in a small way, is a privilege. We know it’s going to go for a long way. Working with Bayon Pastry School is an opportunity for us to do something different. We think of the future of our company but also of the long future of your NGO. It’s about social enterprise, it’s a great thing because we don’t believe in funding some people the whole time. You know, a lot of NGOs fail in Cambodia because they only have a two year fund, so after two years their project ends. That is why we really encourage people who have these social enterprise ideas, looking for ways to be more sustainable.
Would you like to say something about the pastry class and coffee breaks we provided you with a few times?
The group who attended the pastry class gave us an amazing feedback about it, they really appreciated it! Concerning the coffee break, we brought a couple of groups to your place, the story behind the coffee shop meant a lot to them. They also found the quality of the pastries amazing. However, although it is a very nice activity, I think coffee breaks aren’t really suitable for our organization because we have a very limited amount of time. It works only with our ETA department which is a small part of our business.
Anything you would like to add to conclude the interview?
Yes, if I may make a couple of suggestions. I hope to see you succeed in a bigger way. For that, you really have to find the right companies to start with. Don’t waste your time with companies who will just “blablabla” but are not really willing to help you. The companies at our level, which we call “global”, especially some of our competitors, are the right companies to go to. It could bring you to a longer way. Also, you have to work with hotels. I know that the big ones already have pastry chefs but maybe target at boutique hotels.
A big thank you to Panya and Vet who granted some of their precious time for that interview!

, 29 June 2016