As the year-end festivities get into high gear, provincial tourism officials are reporting a sharp increase in Cambodians travelling to popular holiday spots across the country to ring in the New Year.
The temple town of Siem Reap this year is seeing an increase in hotel bookings made by Cambodian travellers with fewer foreign tourists, according to Chhoeuy Chhan, head of Siem Reap’s provincial department of tourism.
“Hotels along Siem Reap’s major roads are full, but there are still some hotels in less touristy areas that are available,” he said, adding that there should be no problem with room availability.
“The room rates are a little higher, but nowhere close to double. It is still at an acceptable level,” Chhan said.
According to Chhan, foreign arrivals have declined this year because of the continuing economic slowdown in Europe and Russia, as well as the Paris terrorist attacks in November.
Cambodian visitors to the temple city, Chhan said, were up 9 per cent this year to 2.7 million, whereas foreign guests were down close to 10 per cent at 1.9 million.
The coastal province of Kep is also seeing an influx of Cambodians, given that provincial authorities are organising events, like exhibitions, concerts, boat races and kite flying, to lure Cambodians to its beaches, according Som Chenda, head of the province’s tourism department.
“Related to bookings, so far it is good but for Thursday there may be a shortage of rooms,” he said. “During the normal season, the supply of hotels and restaurants is sufficient. But during big events, some tourists will choose to stay in close by cities, such as Kampot or Sihanoukville.”
According to Chenda, the province expects to attracted more than a million visitors, up 30 per cent from last year.
Nou Sophal, head of the Preah Sihanouk tourism department, said Sihanoukville, a popular beach destination, was seeing most hotels fully booked. However, he was unable to estimate the number of tourists given that there was another day to go for New Year’s Eve.
Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said as infrastructure improves in the country, more Cambodians will travel to the coastal areas and Siem Reap. He added that there were still rooms available to tourists.
“The price has slightly increased for two-star hotels and below, but this is common during the high season,” he said. “We don’t want rates to increase too much, but if they increase rates, they should improve their services too.”
According to Meng, the total number of hotel rooms in the country will continue to increase, to match rising demand from tourists, and tourism-related construction activity could increase three-fold by 2018.
Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the increase in local tourists was indicative of rising income levels among Cambodians and was a good sign for the country’s economy.
“People have started travelling more with their children and friends, because they want to enjoy their lives,” he said.