Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”.
Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the top answer in our poll, and a popular choice among staff members and Rough Guides Twitter followers alike”.
Twitter handle @AndreaLeber said: “They’ve been through so much and still have a smile on their faces!”
Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan lauded the distinction as “good news” for the Kingdom’s tourism sector, especially as the government gears up for a reopening for vaccinated foreign tourists.
He told The Post on October 12 that the accolade would inspire a great deal of foreign travellers to visit Cambodia. “More or less, promoting such positivity will help make Cambodia’s tourism sector more visible and more attractive,” he said.
However, Sinan cautioned Cambodians not to let praise go to their heads, and take the time to make adequate preparations. “We have to remember that the more people compliment us, the harder we have to work to live up to those praises,” he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin pointed out that travellers nowadays do plenty of research for entertainment venues, accommodation, food, hospitality and tourism products and people-friendly destinations before their trips.
She said the poll, coupled with high Covid-19 vaccination rates would provide a lift in confidence for people who may be looking to travel or invest in the Kingdom.
“An uptick in the tourism sector during Pchum Ben, the proportion of the population vaccinated, as well as the latest word from Rough Guides will be driving forces in attracting foreign visitors, luring them to visit Cambodia in the future,” Sivlin said.
“This is another new light for the redevelopment of the tourism sector in Cambodia.”
Rounding out the top 10 “World’s Friendliest Countries” were, in order, the Philippines, Laos, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Fiji, Scotland and Sri Lanka.
Holidaymakers made 911,147 domestic trips across the Kingdom from October 4-10, during the main Pchum Ben festivities, with Kampot province ranking as the top destination, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The ministry noted that 904,163 Cambodians and 6,984 foreign residents visited Phnom Penh (19,777) and the provinces of Kampot (140,168), Kep (111,840), Preah Sihanouk (98,229), Pursat (79,678), Kampong Cham (65,639), Battambang (54,969), Kampong Speu (48,148), Siem Reap (44,157), Mondulkiri (42,186), Kandal (32,284) and Takeo (29,231).
The remaining 13 provinces saw 144,841 visitors over the seven days, each with fewer than 20,000.
For the 15 days following the harvest moon, Cambodian Buddhists observe Pchum Ben – which fell from September 22 to October 6 this year – the first 14 days of which are enumerated as the first-through-14th Kan Ben Days, where families typically gather at pagodas, bringing food and other offerings for monks.
The main festivities were celebrated from October 5-7 this year, starting on the 14th Kan Ben Day and ending a day after the primary day of “great offering”, or Ben Thom, on October 6, which coincides with the new moon. The holiday is dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead and is an occasion for families to get together.
On June 24, US travel firm Tripadvisor Inc named a three-day discovery tour across northwestern Cambodia’s Siem Reap province as the world’s number one luxury tour in the 2021 Travellers’ Choice “Best of the Best” Things to Do Awards.
The package includes a tour on the main circuit in Angkor Archaeological Park and beyond to Phnom Kulen National Park and its refreshing waterfalls, the famous floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake and the endearing Banteay Srei temple – or “citadel of the women”, according to the Tripadvisor website.
From January-July, Cambodia received 112,544 international visitors, marking a steep decline of 90.6 per cent year-on-year, according to data from the tourism ministry.