Cambodia seems to be breaking tradition this Khmer New Year, as some people leave the country for vacation rather than return to their home provinces.
Travel agents have noted a growing trend of international travel during holiday breaks where once reconnection with family was sacrosanct.
Instead of bussing it back to Kampot or Battamabang for the New Year, now Cambodians are flying to Malaysia, Singapore and even Hong Kong.
“Cambodians like traveling, and not just for big public holidays but even for weekends, too,” Muth Sam Ol, owner of Sky King Travel and Tours Co in Phnom Penh, said this week.
Cambodians are taking advantage of the longer New Year break to book group tours with Sky King and other agencies, with Muth Sam Ol saying 31 such groups are headed to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong with his company.
The groups typically consist of 30 to 40 people, he said.
Other travel agents have pointed to increases as well.
Chhay Rachhun, who does sales for KO Travel and Tours, said 10 groups booked with his firm for trips to a number of ASEAN countries this month.
That was a slight increase over last year, he said.
An official at new travel outfit Narin Samnang Travel and Tours noted similar demand, after booking about five groups for the holiday.
The rise in Cambodian travelers bears out in Ministry of Tourism statistics, as just over 709,600 of them left the country in 2011.
That’s a 41 per cent jump from the 504,990 that departed in 2010.
A similar trend played out in January, according to ministry data.
About 71,540 Cambodians visited foreign countries that month, up about 50 per cent year-on-year for the period.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents Ang Kin Eang said the Kingdom’s ASEAN membership allowed travelers some visa exemptions, making travel easier.
And while Cambodian money is being spent outside the country, tourists often bring back valuable knowledge and skills, he said.
Still, some of the Kingdom’s budding destinations are drawing Cambodian travelers as well, according PTM Travel and Tours’ Kov Vannak.
“Most Cambodians are interested in domestic travel because our country has new tourist sites to visit.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]