10 Apr 2017
With the New Year holiday starting next week, people are busy planning what to do with the well-earned break from work. Some are considering Siem Reap, while others plan trips to coastal areas, resorts in the northeastern province of Ratanakkiri, or tour packages abroad.
Socheat from the Huawei phone shop in Phnom Penh will take his seven-member family to Siem Reap this year. He and his family expect to spend about $300 each on their trip to the biggest attraction in the country’s tourism sector.
“There are a lot of interesting places in Siem Reap province to visit during Khmer New Year. I plan to visit some of those place during my stay, so I think I will spend about $300 because I will buy souvenirs for many friends,” said Mr. Socheat, who often travels abroad during long holidays.
The trend of taking holidays has increased in Cambodia in recent years, with people opting to travel within the country and further afield, thanks to better incomes and transportation systems.
According to industry experts, Cambodians are starting to appreciate cultural and nature-related tourist attractions within the country, generating more income for local business operators.
Chea Naryroth, an accountant at a private company in Phnom Penh, will spend two days visiting Preah Sihanoukville province on the coast and will spend about $200 to $250.
“People no longer stay home during long holidays like Khmer New Year. They want to visit tourism sites like Siem Reap, coastal provinces and others,” said Naryroth, who always goes out of town for any long holidays.
Chuk Chumnor, the director of the Tourism Ministry’s Cultural Tourism and Resorts department, said the increase in local travel is due to better infrastructure and the fact people’s living standards have improved.
“There are new tourism destinations in most provinces, roads are connected and these places have good security, plus more people have the income to make trips,” Mr. Chumnor said.
However the price of taking a holiday always rises during long breaks, which concerns Mr. Socheat and Ms. Naryroth.
“Food and accommodation in some restaurants, hotels and guesthouses increases from normal prices during each long holiday, but we heard the government is appealing to tourism providers not to hike prices,” Mr. Socheat said.
The Ministry of Tourism recently called on all tourism businesses – hotels, guesthouses and restaurants – to label the prices of their services and not increase them during Khmer New Year, particularly for Angkor Sangkranta in Siem Reap.
“The increased price of accommodation and food during long holidays is unfair. All tourism related businesses and services must label or show their fees so it is easy for authorities to check and follow up on any complaints,” Tourism Minister Thong Khon said recently.
That announcement has encouraged people to travel locally, said Ho Vandy, the secretary general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance.
“The call not to hike prices during long holidays is made every year because it is an old issue, but we are making progress,” Mr. Vandy said.
Increased prices at home encourage some to go abroad for the holidays.
Cheang Lavin, an accountant at a private company in Phnom Penh, said she and her family of seven will visit Malaysia for four days during the New Year and will spend almost $3,000.
“We started visiting other countries two years ago because we wanted to see something exciting and different. We had already been to many places in Cambodia, so we wanted to learn something new,” said Ms. Lavin, who went to Vietnam last year.
She admitted she spends less on holidays in Cambodia than she would on a trip abroad.
“If we visit tourism sites here, I spend about $600 for all of my whole family, but we can now afford to go abroad,” she said.
Mr. Socheat agreed, adding that if he goes to Thailand, Vietnam or Malaysia, each trip will cost about $400, whereas a similar local holiday costs about $300.
Improved air and land transport is one factor that has helped more Cambodians to travel.
Mr. Vandy said budget airlines and the ability to travel visa-free in Asean have opened up travel possibilities to Cambodians like never before.
While busy preparing documents for New Year tour packages, Mey Ly, a sales manager at SPR World Travel and Tours in Phnom Penh, said this is peak season for local tourists, as is Chinese New Year.
Some local people think tourism sites in Cambodia are outdated, so they opt to see something new overseas, she said. They are also wary of the hike prices at home, she added.
According to Ms. Ly, Cambodian tourists are now starting to get interested in visiting Japan and South Korea, while many have already been to Malaysia and Singapore.