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Bus operators report huge fall-offs in travel

Bus operators report huge fall-offs in travel

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081127_13.jpg

Passenger numbers down 30-60 percent, operators say

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Passenger buses are parked at a Phnom Penh bus depot near Olympic Market.

LONG the most popular, practical and affordable mode of transport within Cambodia, bus operators are now struggling to survive with operators saying ridership has plummeted as much as 60 percent this year as people feeling the pinch choose to stay at home.

"Customers taking my company's buses have dropped about 20-30 percent this year compared to last year,"said Chhem Chomnan, marketing officer for the Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Company - the pioneer of Cambodian bus companies. There are 13 major bus companies currently operating countrywide.

Chem Sophal, deputy manager for Samphors Phnom Penh Express Bus Co Ltd, reported a 60 percent drop in ridership this year. "If it weren't for the cheaper gasoline, my business would go bankrupt," he said.

No fun even at festivals

Sorya Transport's Chhem Chomnan said that last year his company, which operates 100 buses, did not have enough buses to meet demand during major festivals and had to rent cars to keep up.

"Last year during these festivals, up to 20 full buses with 45 people per day would travel along each route, but this year only about 10 buses per day make these journeys with about 30 to 35 customers per bus," he said.

The slowing local economy is being blamed for the drops in bus ridership with many Cambodians cutting back on travel expenses.

Chhem Chomnan said his company has cancelled two routes, Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh to Chhrey Thom, and the company would soon be stopping the Phnom Penh-Takeo route.

"Sometimes there were customers from Phnom Penh to Takeo, but there were no customers for the return trip," he said. "We cannot earn a profit when we calculate what we spend [running these routes]."

He said the drop in demand had offset any savings his company saw in lower fuel prices.

Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics Department at the Tourism Ministry, said both tourist arrivals and domestic travel had dropped.

From January to October this year, there have been 1.7 million international visitors.  

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