Experience Smart Change is one of Cambodia’s first meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) companies. Co-founder Wolfgang Weiss shares the company’s ethos and his thoughts on the sector’s growth potential
Tell us about Experience Smart Change…
[We have been here] for a little bit more than one year now. My wife and I were living in Shanghai, China, for the past ten years building up a production facility in the automotive industry, and we decided… we had to do something different. We founded our own company here called Experience Smart Change and our core idea is to bring companies and management teams… to Cambodia and to organise for them management retreats, running workshops, seminars and company outings. [Our target market is] general managers and HR [human resource] managers, especially from Western companies in China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Why did you choose to set up in Cambodia?
Because it’s still a pretty underdeveloped country with nice people and great places, especially in Siem Reap… We had a feeling whenever we talked to authorities here that we are welcome as Westerners. Also, Siem Reap is attractive for sure in terms of the [Angkor] temples. Many of our clients, especially from China, they love to see the temples, no doubt.
Tell us about the Mice packages your company offers…
We have three- or four-day events here that are typical for companies. They want to spend a holiday beginning Friday, so they typically fly in on a Thursday night and they fly out on a Sunday. A typical package looks like this: the first day is a team-building event with a social aspect. So we try to include here, for example, schools or building water wells… It’s a nice team-building experience. The second day, typically we have a management retreat. I can moderate workshops of different kinds. Last time, my wife held a workshop about communication between Chinese and European companies [to address] the cultural background challenges. So the second day is really depending on customer needs. The third day is spent either on a temple tour or a Tonle Sap lake tour. So this is the tourism part – the tourism and fun part.
Where is there room for growth in the Mice industry in Cambodia?
[There is room on] two sides. The first is with the Ministry of Tourism. They have to do something on a broad scale internationally to advertise not only the temples but to also advertise the potential for big events here for conferences… There are some in Phnom Penh ongoing and, I think, one or two in Siem Reap, but that’s it and they are not very international… The other thing is, I see a lack of knowledge of what is expected by companies if they come to Cambodia – what they want to see when they organise a retreat. The hotel managers, they cannot do that. There is tourism and hospitality but they cannot deliver the content that companies need – running a workshop, for example, or a seminar… This knowledge is not here, or at least not very well developed… There is huge potential that could be developed if it’s done in a professional way [and]… the benefits are huge for the locals: tuk tuk drivers, restaurants and whatever else.
This article was first published in Globe Media Asia’s Focus Cambodia 2018 magazine.