For the average tour groups visiting Cambodia, there are a few standard precautions: drink bottled water, watch what you eat and take your malaria pills if you’re traveling in the countryside.
Healthy clients, after all, make good advertising.
“We advise people that they should go see their travel clinic before they come,” says Paula Brinkley of the travel company SSbD, or Same Same but Different.
Brinkley and Beverly Palmer, cousins and co-owners of SSbD, recently donated $75 to The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign, which has topped $52,000 in donations since it began in 1997.
The tour company was launched just a few months ago, but already Brinkley and Palmer have taken one of their tour groups to Ratanakkiri in northeastern Cambodia where malaria protection—and mosquito nets —are a must. The hills and forests of the remote province provide ideal habitat for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Because SSbD is leading tour groups through Cambodia, Brinkley and Palmer wanted to contribute to a cause that improves the quality of life for Cambodians. As tour operators, they have a vested interest in the betterment of Cambodia—as the country improves, it becomes more attractive to tourists.
Brinkley said there is still a problem attracting visitors. Years of civil war and political unrest in Cambodia make potential travelers nervous, even though the country today is much safer for tourists than just a few years ago.
“People are a bit hesitant to travel here,” Brinkley said. “They’re still a bit wary.”
Brinkley has seen both Cambodias. In 1990, she came here to work with a group of Australian NGOs.
While stability has improved substantially since then, so has the basic infrastructure, Brinkley says.
“We used to get mail in once a week and to get a phone call out you had to book in advance and they were routed through Moscow or Hanoi,” Brinkley says.
There were no computers, little electricity and poor transportation networks at the time, as well.
“Now, everyone has hand phones,” she said. “The change is just amazing—well, surface change.”