Phnom Penh and Cambodia’s 24 provinces tallied a cumulative 306,516 domestic trips – 51,898 or 16.93 per cent of them made by foreigners – over March 13-19, as reported by the Ministry of Tourism on the 21st.

The encouraging growth trajectory of the domestic tourism sector since the government’s November 2021 move towards the full resumption of socio-economic activities sends a strong signal to travel-related businesses and foreign holidaymakers that now is the time to take a trip to and across the Kingdom, as safety risks decline, industry players have said.

Sourced from the tourism departments of each of the 25 first-order administrative divisions, the ministry statistics rank Preah Sihanouk as the top destination for domestic travellers during the period, with 68,067 trips, of which 6,476 were attributed to foreigners, followed by Siem Riep (42,863; 7,863) and Phnom Penh (40,473; 30,365).

Next up were: Kampot (25,233; 2,000), Battambang (25,199; 1,480), Kampong Cham (14,180; 116), Banteay Meanchey (12,295; 93), Pursat (10,630; 82), Kampong Speu (10,108; 268), Koh Kong (8,192; 210), Kep (7,048; 647), Kandal (6,757; 281), Takeo (4,551; 93), Mondulkiri (4,453; 162) and Ratanakkiri (4,176; 161).

At the bottom of the list were: Preah Vihear (3,633; 717), Svay Rieng (2,741; 0), Pailin (2,557; 23), Prey Veng (2,408; 0), Stung Treng (2,382; 23), Kampong Chhnang (2,252; 95), Kampong Thom (1,858; 294), Kratie (1,811; 325), Tbong Khmum (1,505; 0) and Oddar Meanchey (1,144; 124).

“Domestic tourists continue at around 300,000 per week, although we did see about 1.5 million a week earlier – including the more than one million who made it out to Kampong Thom province for the River Festival over March 8-10,” said the ministry.

Angkor Tourist Guide Association president Khieu Thy commented to The Post on March 22 that domestic tourism flows have recovered rather swiftly since Covid-19 tapered off, as national and international travellers visit Siem Reap in progressively increasing numbers – particularly en masse during holidays and festivals – although most are locals.

Siem Reap is set to host the annual Angkor Sangkran festival during the upcoming Khmer New Year break in mid-April after a two year Covid hiatus, which will bump up the number of holidaymakers to the province, he surmised.

“Although local visitors don’t spend as much [money] as foreigners do, they’re important at this point for the revival of tourism,” he said, adding that Siem Reap’s outdoor recreational spots consistently draw sizeable crowds.

According to the ministry, the provincial-level regions with the largest proportions of domestic trips made by foreigners over March 13-19 were: Phnom Penh with 75.03 per cent, followed by Preah Vihear (19.74%), Siem Reap (18.34%), Kratie (17.95%) and Kampong Thom (15.82%).

The next few were: Oddar Meanchey (10.84%), Preah Sihanouk (9.51%), Kep (9.18%), Kampot (7.93%), Battambang (5.87%), Kampong Chhnang (4.22%), Kandal (4.16%), Ratanakkiri (3.86%), Mondulkiri (3.64%), Kampong Speu (2.65%) and Koh Kong (2.56%).

Rounding out the bottom of the list were: Takeo (2.04%), Stung Treng (0.97%), Pailin (0.90%), Kampong Cham (0.82%), Pursat (0.77%), Banteay Meanchey (0.76%), and Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Tbong Khmum with zero per cent each – even though all three border Vietnam.

It should be mentioned that the ministry has hinted that statistics for domestic trips could be extrapolations from figures provided by managers of tourism-linked establishments and attractions, along with related sources.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan views the uptick in domestic trips as a good indicator for travel agencies, similar companies and foreign travellers of the potential – and safety – for travel to the Kingdom.

The more trips are made across the Kingdom, the more vibrant and prosperous the economy will be, he reasoned. “In the earlier stages of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, domestic tourism is key to lure foreign visitors to Cambodia.”

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon in early January predicted that around 15 million domestic trips would be made across the Kingdom this year.

The ministry put the numbers of domestic trips by Cambodians and foreigners within the Kingdom last year at 13.934 million and 1.877 million, respectively, up 198.81 per cent and up 572.16 per cent from their corresponding 2021 figures.

Compared to 2019, the former registered a 68.50 per cent increase from 8.270 million, although the latter was down 76.23 per cent from 7.897 million.

Cumulatively, domestic trips in 2022 clocked in at 15.811 million, up 219.91 per cent from the 4.942 million logged in 2021, but down 2.20 per cent from 16.166 million in 2019.

In 2022, internal tourism expenditures made by Cambodians came to about $650 million, or a ballpark mean of $50 per person, the ministry reported, adding that an average domestic trip lasted three days and two nights.