Last week in Siem Reap I visited the Angkor Handicrafts Association, a cooperative market and open studio for local artisans. They’re out of town, so they don’t get anywhere near as much traffic as the stalls near Pub Street and the Night Market. It gives the venue a nice tourist-free feel, but it’s terrible for their margins. There were one or two people working – at sewing machines, making bags out of flour sacks, running the pottery wheels – but most of the stalls were unsupervised.
Souvenir shopping in Siem Reap, like so many other parts of the tourist industry, runs on a referral system: tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides get a commission to bring their charges to certain shops and markets. AHA doesn’t currently have a cohort of drivers, so it doesn’t get traffic and can’t make sales.