How Cambodia’s ‘Cirque du Soleil’ survived a year of no tourism

Juggling with zero tourism revenue is a hard balancing act, but Phare, The Cambodian Circus keeps hopes alive with new ways of putting up its shows.

If there is one destination that the pandemic has devastated, it’s Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat, where the only economy was tourism.

One organisation that has been at the centre of the storm is Phare, The Cambodian Circus. And because everything is connected — revenues earned by the circus went towards funding the Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO set up to help underprivileged kids in Cambodia find livelihoods in the performing arts — you can imagine the cycle of devastation.

From running shows that catered to more than 800 visitors some days (two shows a day) in Siem Reap, the circus went to zero shows from March to July at the height of the pandemic, held weekend shows for locals when allowed for most of last year and when I spoke to Phare’s CEO Dara Huot in early April, the province was in the middle of a sharp lockdown due to the sudden emergence of new clusters.

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