Rising Covid-19 vaccination rates and generally high adherence to preventative measures and health-protective behaviour, as encouraged by the tourism and health ministries, have led to a steady recovery in domestic tourism.
Holidaymakers made 102,063 domestic trips across the Kingdom at the weekend from September 24-26, up by 29.16 per cent over September 17-19 a week earlier, with the capital ranking as the top destination, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The ministry noted that 100,512 Cambodians and 1,551 foreign residents visited Phnom Penh (32,793) and the provinces of Kampot (24,329), Preah Sihanouk (8,198), Kep (6,750), Kampong Speu (5,607), Takeo (4,598), Mondulkiri (4,262) and Pursat (3,631). The remaining 17 provinces saw 11,895 visitors over the three days.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon ascribed the bump in domestic tourism to Pchum Ben as devotees bring food and other offerings for monks at pagodas across the Kingdom, and Covid-fatigued Cambodians shrug off coronavirus risks and go for holiday.
Cambodian Buddhists will observe Pchum Ben for 15 days, which falls from September 22 to October 6 this year, the first 14 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 will be celebrated from October 5-7, 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 their ancestors and is an occasion for families to get together.
Khon enthused that domestic trips are gaining momentum after a period of deep lull brought on by the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
And to ensure safe trips for travellers, the tourism ministry is working with the relevant authorities to make sure that the “three protections and three don’ts” rules, standard operating procedures (SOP) and other tourism safety guidelines are observed by tourism businesses and attractions, he said.
“Across various tourist destinations, sightseers and residents alike have been more actively involved in the fulfilment of the ‘three protections and three don’ts’ rules, especially wearing face masks regularly and choosing to take trips to natural areas, communities or ecotourism sites,” Khon said.
The minister shared that the coastal, ecotourism and other natural destinations in Kampong Speu, Mondulkiri and Pursat were most frequented during the weekend, with the Siem Reap-Angkor area a notable exception as heightened coronavirus restrictions continue.
World Express Co Ltd managing director Ho Vandy projected that growth in domestic tourism will further accelerate as the Covid-19 situation moderates and the preventative measures endorsed by the tourism and health ministries, as well as other involved departments, remain strictly adhered to.
“Growth will continue to be strong, while the Ministry of Tourism recently launched a tourism development strategy to underpin more inclusive tourism growth,” he told The Post on September 28.
He posited that coastal and ecotourism sites will be increasingly more popular among locals.
Speaking at the launch of Covid-19 vaccination campaign for children aged 6-11 on September 17, Prime Minister Hun Sen signalled that he was keen for the Kingdom to throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against the coronavirus – starting with guests from China, the country he said has the best grip on the pandemic.