Willem Niemeijer, CEO, Camp Operator, YAANA Ventures
Cardamom Tented Camp, its environment, and Willem Niemeijer (top right)
Cardamom Tented Camp in Cambodia has won the 2022 Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) Sustainable Hotel Award for Climate Action.
Apart from climate action, there were awards for building preservation/adaptive reuse, positive community impact, and sustainable design. Seven judges, mostly from institutional sustainability backgrounds, assessed the submissions. The BHN Group, which runs the HICAP event, announced the winners on 12 October.
The judges based the climate action decision on Cardamom Tented Camp’s ability to work with partners to preserve 180 sq km of lowland rainforest in the Botum Sakor national park in southwest Cambodia. On climate action, it is estimated that the forest that the camp helps protect sequesters about 108,652 tons of carbon per year, according to Wildlife Works.
Since opening in 2017, the tented camp’s motto has been, “Your Stay Keeps the Forest Standing.” It makes the claim because monthly salaries of 10 Wildlife Alliance forest rangers are supplemented by profits from the camp. The rangers protect the habitat from illegal poachers, loggers, riverbank sand dredgers and land encroachers.
Populations of elephant, leopard, python, sun bear, otter, pangolin and other wildlife are increasing due to camp-funded ranger patrols. The rangers have forced poachers to the perimeters, or out of the park altogether.
“Despite setbacks during the two Covid years when tourism income greatly disappeared, Cardamom Tented Camp persevered in its environmental mission,” said Willem Niemeijer, CEO of camp operator YAANA Ventures. “We are grateful to HICAP for recognising our staying power and ability to work with partners to keep the forest standing, with all the benefits that brings,” he said.
HICAP judges also took into consideration the camp’s strong contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goals such as life on land, clean and affordable energy, decent work, economic growth, climate action, and partnerships. Cardamom Tented Camp is a partnership with Minor Hotel Group’s sustainability arm, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, Wildlife Alliance, and YAANA Ventures.
Beyond sequestering an estimated 108,652 tons of CO2 annually, the judges also recognised Cardamom Tented Camp’s additional environmental efforts. BHN noted: “The camp is powered by 100% onsite solar power for its electricity, has low impact heating and cooking, and natural wastewater filtration processes. The property recycles as much as possible and uses 100% organic personal care products. Future plans include powering its boat with an electric battery, increasing local and onsite food sourcing, and undertaking community activities for conservation.”
As well as Cardamom Tented Camp’s environmental efforts, it also scores well on hospitality and all-round guest experience metrics. The camp’s guest satisfaction levels are rated 5.0 – excellent – by TripAdvisor, and have been so for three years
After Covid impacts, YAANA Ventures estimates Cardamom Tented Camp will close 2022 with about 80% of 2019’s occupancy and will return to profitable levels in 2023. YAANA Ventures says it will then increase contributions to the forest rangers.
In the 2022 HICAP Sustainable Hotel Awards, Soneva Fushi in the Maldives won for positive community impact. Lyf one-north in Singapore won for sustainable design.