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Domestic tourism soars 237% over three-day Water Festival

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An overview in front of Royal Palace during the Water Festival. PHNOM PENH MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATION

Domestic tourism soars 237% over three-day Water Festival

Holidaymakers made 910,150 domestic trips across Cambodia during this year’s Water Festival on November 18-20, with the capital ranking as the top destination, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The ministry noted that 899,869 Cambodians and 10,281 foreign residents visited Phnom Penh (199,835) and the provinces of Siem Reap (118,146), Preah Sihanouk (111,322), Kampot (83,466), Kep (75,865), Pursat (53,807), Battambang (38,667), Kampong Speu (37,465), Mondulkiri (32,957), Kandal (27,280) and Ratanakkiri (24,596). The remaining 16 provinces saw 106,744 visitors.

On a per-day basis, the number of domestic trips over November 18-20 rose by 236.54 per cent from the second weekend of this month – 180,296 from November 13-14, as reported by the ministry.

Known locally as Bon Om Touk, the Water Festival fell from November 18-20 this year, the second day of which aligns with the date of the full moon in the Khmer lunar calendar month of Katdoek (or Kartika in Sanskrit) when the long-cycle rice crops are ready for harvest.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said local sightseers were all too delighted to get out over the three-day holiday, spurred on by the reopening of prominent destinations in areas such as Sihanoukville and Siem Reap-Angkor, rising Covid full-vaccination rates, and the socio-economic situation’s gradual transition to a “new normal”.

He said tourist attractions have been preparing the infrastructure and embellishments to attract domestic tourists, and adjusting to “new normal” rules and regulations.

“All of these factors reflect a return towards the ‘new normal’ and the resumption of economic activity, especially for businesses and private sector entities that had been suspended,” said Khon.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post on November 21 that the number of visitors rose at all tourist destinations, which he ascribed to a drop in active Covid-19 cases, increased awareness and participation in preventive measures, and a greater receptiveness among authorities to travel.

He suggested that the uptick in domestic trips could be a bellwether for the future of international tourism.

“This is a wonderful sign for Cambodia’s tourism sector and could bring a new test for the management of the status of Covid-19 cases in the community,” Sinan said.

“If there aren’t any more outbreaks, I’d chalk it up as a huge success for the government in the nationwide vaccination campaign.”

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