What started as a tool to pay their way through school has grown into a full-fledged business for a trio of young Cambodian women, who have developed a series of female-led motorbike tours exploring the capital.
When Chea Renou’s father fell sick in 2015, she quit her job at a finance company to help her mother deliver groceries from the family-run market stall. Despite him returning to work after recovering, the 27-year-old knew she needed to find a flexible form of income that could support her studies and enable her to help out at home, if needed.
Said Renou: “My Aunty lives on the border with Thailand and told me about Thai girls on motorbike taxis taking local people around to pay for their school. My cousin is a tour guide and only works when she has tours, so I thought, ‘This sounds interesting’. I can drive a motorbike, I speak English, and I love meeting new people and sharing my culture; why not start motorbike tours?”
Her brother, who works in IT, created a website and Renou recruited her sister Chea Chanraksmey and cousin Horm Sreynich, both 23, to help launch all-female tour company, MotogirlTour in December 2015.
Tapping into Cambodia’s growing tourism industry while trying to offer more unique experiences to Phnom Penh’s visitors, the girls spent a year researching how to start and run a business, scouring the city for top spots to include in itineraries and, with no marketing budget, devising social media campaigns.
Said Chanraksmey: “The real challenge was finding good places for customers to experience. We want them to really feel what Cambodia is; what we like to eat, what Cambodian people believe. We want people to go away knowing what Cambodia is all about.”
The result is a series of scooter tours that offer guests a glimpse into the capital’s local life, taking in iconic attractions along the way. They include a shopping tour, a countryside jaunt and a night time cruise through the capital. Custom tours can also be created on request.
“Tourism is growing a lot here, so it seemed like a good business to make,” said Sreynich. “When we started, there were no other scooter tours in Phnom Penh so it was one more experience for tourists to do.”
Today, the company boasts six female drivers, including Sreynich, Chanraksmey and Renou, with more available if larger groups book.
“We started off thinking this would be a good way to make some money to pay for our school,” said Chanraksmey. “Now it is a full-time business for us.”
Hoping to build on their success and tap into the predicted 7.5 million annual foreign arrivals by 2020 – latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism show over 3.9 million people visited the country between January and September, an 11.5 percent year-on-year increase – MotogirlTour is planning to expand to Siem Reap and build on their customers, who mainly come from Europe, the US, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
“The best thing is being able to show people our country, meeting so many different people, sharing experiences and creating great memories,” said Renou.