A sweeping wave of tourism swept through the provinces of Preah Sihanouk and Kampot last weekend, as nearly 100,000 visitors flocked to these sun-drenched havens. The flurry of activity coincided with a three-day weekend granted by the government to encourage citizens to cast their votes in the July 23 election.

Taing Sochet Kresna, director of the Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department, confirmed the surge in visitor numbers during the period. He noted a particular peak on July 23 and 24, with numbers far surpassing those of previous weeks.

“There was an air of jubilant celebration as locals combined civic duty with leisure, making a beeline for our sun-soaked beaches after casting their votes,” Kresna recalled.

A significant number of the visitors were residents of Preah Sihanouk who, after casting their votes, indulged in a two-day coastal escapade.

“Our province’s appeal became more prominent during the election holiday due to the extended three-day weekend. Nearly 70,000 of these enthusiastic visitors were our local tourists. Thanks to our expansive highways, we have witnessed a steady increase in visitors over the years,” Kresna said.

Kampot province saw a similar trend. Soy Sinol, director of the provincial tourism department, was impressed by the influx of over 30,000 tourists during the holiday. This was a notable increase from the usual 20,000 that usually grace Kampot over a weekend.

“We had not anticipated such a surge during the three-day election holiday. Bokor Mountain, Teuk Chhou and the Mlech Dam resort emerged as the most favoured destinations,” Sinol shared.

Despite the excitement, Sinol was keen to highlight the department’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding against the re-emergence of Covid-19.

“Even as the pandemic eases, we have adhered strictly to the Ministry of Tourism’s guidelines and implemented preventive measures to ensure our visitors’ safety,” he said.

Ho Vandy, an adviser to the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, saw the tourism boom as a vote of confidence in the country’s stability.

“The absence of fear or concern about insecurity during the election is a positive sign. Unlike our neighbours where elections trigger unrest, our people are relishing post-election travel, illustrating that the boost in tourism can be attributed to peace,” Vandy asserted.

Ministry spokesman Chuk Chumno was unavailable for comment, but the ministry’s recent records have painted a promising picture of the Kingdom’s flourishing tourism scene.

The second weekend of July, for instance, welcomed nearly 300,000 visitors across the country’s main tourist hotspots, including Phnom Penh and the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Battambang, Kampot, Siem Reap, Kampong Speu, Pursat and Kep.

Compared to the previous week, there was a modest rise of about 3.15 per cent in visitor numbers, with domestic visitors surging by 3.4 per cent and international visitors by 1.36 per cent.

These statistics underscore a vibrant image of Cambodia’s tourism industry, growing steadily against the backdrop of political stability and effective pandemic control.