Hospitality and tourism graduate expands sustainability in Southeast Asia

An inspiring article outlining business tourism graduate Kristin Hansen's successful hotel venture in Southeast Asia.

After Kristin Hansen graduated from The International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS) in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in business tourism and hotel management and master's degree in international business, her next stop was Southeast Asia. Equipped with two degrees and the hands-on experience of nine-months paid industry training, Hansen began to lay the groundwork for her next endeavour: to open a sustainable hotel in Cambodia. Three years later she opened the doors to the boutique 28 room Soria Moria Hotel in Siem Reap.

During her studies at Hansen set up a guest house with friends in the Siem Reap area and was well-versed in the Cambodian culture and the unique challenges of starting a business in a developing nation. "Since I have always wanted to have my own business, it was important for me that I got a business degree. At ICMS, I especially liked the combination of the theoretical and the practical experience and the focus on professionalism." This comprehensive approach to education offered Hansen a critical edge after graduation as she set the framework for the hotel.

Hospitality is in Hansen's genes. In her native Norway, her father was a chef and later went on to teach and start his own catering company. Growing up in Sandefjord, a small town on Norway's Gold Coast, Hansen was exposed to the hospitality industry and owning your own business first hand.

Cambodia has experienced significant growth in the past ten years; yet the area of Siem Reap remains one of the poorest provinces in the area, with only 5% of the local community working within the tourism industry. Despite the increased influence of the western world, Siem Reap continues to conserve much of its rich culture and traditions from Apsara dance performances to intricate wood carvings, two traditions which Hansen has incorporated into the hotel.

By employing the local people and offering the hotel guests a unique connection to the community, Hansen's business plan is win-win from all angles. This reflects Hansen's overall goal to create sustainable development in Cambodia and "to help the local populations rather than come in and exploit the cheap labour and hard-working staff."

A distinguishing feature of the ICMS degree remains nine-months of paid industry training where students work within the industry and learn from established professionals. With the current stressors in the global economy trickling down to graduates across the globe, industry training offers ICMS graduates an edge over other applicants. Hansen recently welcomed her first ICMS industry training student and plans to offer a placement every year to an ICMS student. "There is no point in just giving; it's about creating something that will last a long time.'"

Provided by the International College of Management, Sydney