Hotelier First Foreigner to Speak in North Korea

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA—Christian de Boer, managing director of Jaya House in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is the first foreign hospitality executive to speak to students at the PyongYang University of Commerce in North Korea.

With an audience of 400 students and faculty, De Boer touched on topics that are core to the mission of Jaya House Hotels, including the philosophy of service and sustainability in the hospitality industry.

“It was truly a fascinating and gratifying experience,” said de Boer. “There are so many misperceptions about this country and its people. I found them to be warm, engaging and passionate about their futures and careers in hospitality as many of these students will go on to work in hotels throughout the country catering to both domestic and international guests.”

The speaking opportunity was organized and hosted by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and Rotary Australia. Active in efforts to reduce plastic waste in Southeast Asia and beyond, de Boer is the co-founder of Refill The World, which seeks to diminish the use of single-use plastic bottles by replacing them with reusable aluminum bottles that can be refilled at stations in nine countries.  Since its inception in 2016, the campaign has helped save more than 1.5 million plastic bottles.

“I spoke about the philosophy we use at Jaya House and the importance of serving guests, but also how it is up to each of us to be responsible and sustainable. To that end, I told them about the program we started in Siem Reap in 2016 to reduce single-use plastic bottles and how we are working to grow it globally,” said de Boer.

Sustainability and service are the cornerstones of the brand. He shared insight into the importance of being committed to service, but also how the team at Jaya House is committed to the community and employees.

“We provide English classes and also have a program to provide vouchers so that our employees have access to meat, fruits and vegetables, which are not always accessible to working families in Cambodia,” he said.

While not sure what to expect, de Boer found the students and faculty to be warm, engaging, and passionate about the hospitality industry.

“We are more alike than different,” he said. “It was an eye-opening to have seen this part of our collective world and eye-opening to hear and see the story from the North.”

Jaya House Angkor Wat will open this November in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is the second property to open after Jaya House River Park and similar to its sister property, it will be a luxury boutique hotel. Accommodations will include 31 rooms, two swimming pools, a full-service spa, an all-day dining room and lounge. Standard in-room amenities include a Malongo Espresso Machine, Bluetooth connectivity, high-speed wireless internet and a complimentary minibar.  Guests will also receive a complimentary massage daily.

“With a goal of celebrating Cambodia’s heyday during the 1960s, the art in the hotel will feature several large paintings made locally by the Small Art School, a non-governmental organization supported by Jaya House. Laundry bags are made by Rehash Trash using recycled plastic bags from Chi Kreng Province, and we have created full-time jobs for 14 women,” he said. “The property will also feature Jaya Organics, our new custom botanical body and skin care collection that launched in July. In keeping with the property’s commitment to being plastic free, it will participate in Refill The World (formerly known as Refill Not Landfill) to reduce single-use plastic bottles. Our goal for both properties is to be 100% plastic free.”

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