Interview with the Urban Tales – Phnom Penh Team

You will find below an interview with Nicolas PLESSE, founder of the Vietnamese tourism startup ‘Urban Tales’ which he just franchised for the Cambodian market, and his local partner Jacques GUICHANDUT, the director of the tourism agency  All Dreams Cambodia agency.

March 01, 2019

Nicolas could you tell us more about the MIST program?

Nicolas: MIST is an acceleration program by the ADB (Asian Development Bank), tourism startups can use this program to promote their know-how and product, and if possible can implement their concept within the other South-East Asia countries.

By winning this contest, you have chosen the Cambodian market as your first market outside Vietnam, could you tell us why?

Nicolas: After several years spent developing our urban games concepts in Vietnam, Cambodia seemed like the best-suited destination for development. We’ve chosen Phnom Penh as this city is very rich in terms of cultural, historical and architectural history, but also with an overlooked, under-appreciated and under-exploited potential.

Tell us more about Urban Tales, what is it about?

Nicolas: URBAN Tales is a unique concept aiming at independent travellers wishing to discover our destination in an interactive, immersive and fun way. The concept is halfway between a full-scale investigation, a unique visit of the city, and a treasure hunt. We are inviting the travellers to solve several investigation cases in the historical neighbourhoods of different cities in Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho-Chi-Minh) and now in Cambodia (Phnom Penh).

By tracking criminals, or by tracing the memories of the main protagonist of the story, our participants will discover little known places, interact with inhabitants of the neighbourhood and will live a tailored scenario specifically written for each destination. Each city has its own scenario based on local legends and myths that leads visitors to discover its best kept secrets; centuries old pagodas, traditional shops, votive paper stalls, hidden back alleys.

Being awarded by MIST, you had the opportunity to use Confluences expertise for your first steps into the Cambodian market, how did this collaboration go?

Nicolas: First off, it was through Confluences that we met the Dreams team, our partner to develop Urban Tales in Phnom Penh. During our trade mission we also met with local experts, experts legally speaking but also historians or personalities well versed into Phnom Penh traditions and culture.

Jacques as the director of All Dreams Cambodia, what would you consider as the best asset of Cambodia?

Jacques: Certainly its very gentle lifestyle, a country re-building itself after a hard part of its history, a driven youth, a trilingual « Dream team » (Khmer, French, English), and a very liberal investment environment inspired by what has been done in Singapore.

You are now the Cambodian partner for Urban Tales, could you tell us what got your interest with this concept? 

Jacques: Being implanted in Cambodia for more than 20 years, my team and I have noted how hard it was to « hold » visitors for a longer stay in the capital city of the Kingdom. And yet Phnom Penh offers all the advantages of a fast-growing capital city, as much artistically than gastronomically and innovation-wise with its growing startups scene.

It was then a natural choice for us to promote « Urban Tales Phnom Penh », it’s deliberate that we chose the name of the capital city, and not of the country, Phnom Penh is a name marked by both glory and tragedy. Urban Tales Phnom Penh intends to symbolize the rebirth of this city with a promising future!

Nicolas, could you explain us why you have chosen All Dreams Cambodia as your local partner?

Nicolas: We have met with All Dreams on our first market access tour organized by Confluences. Their mind-set is the right one, and Jacques has a clear vision of Phnom Penh’s touristic potential, it was a good match, as we did immediately feel an interest from Jacques and his team. Finally, and that might be the most important part, it is a personal feeling. We got along immediately.

 So how is Urban Tales going

Nicolas: Urban Tales has been started its operations in Phnom Penh since end of September 2018. The trial period is over, and the first players have been welcomed in the following weeks. The feedbacks are excellent. Now we need to promote the concept, but it should not be hard, as we are successful and recognized in Vietnam already.

Jacques: It took us few weeks to adapt Urban tales to the local context, both its context and culture, and we had to be cautious not to enter in any conflicts with the religious and cult authorities. We can now say that our concept is ready and officially launched, we just need to communicate more and better or it, and we do hope that this “urban gateway” will attract both tourists, but also expats, and Cambodians alike.

Last but not least, would you advise companies by the Cambodian market to use the services of Confluences?

Nicolas: I think every companies have different needs in terms of market access, but in our case, Confluences has been most efficient, answering all our legal and admin concerns, and helping us fasten our choices, we found our current partner through them, so yes I do personally recommend Confluences.

Jacques: Absolutely!

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