More than 5.1 million domestic holidaymakers made trips across Cambodia during the four-day extended Khmer New Year weekend, spending more than $460 million in total, in a sign that the Kingdom’s tourism sector, hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, is on the mend.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon announced that 4,590,326 people participated in the three-day traditional Khmer New Year celebrations across the Kingdom, increasing to 5,175,754 when including Sunday, April 17. Revellers were overwhelmingly Cambodian nationals, with 35,259 foreign residents (0.68 per cent) over the four days.
An initial survey conducted by the ministry of five-member families who made trips during the three days reveals that such families spent, on average, “at least $500” over the long weekend – inclusive of accommodation, food, petrol and other New Year expenditure, such as offerings for monks.
“More than 5.17 million tourists over these four days is a huge, higher than expected number – the highest since the government announced the cessation of community events in December 2021. During the Year End Holiday, the total number of visitors was about two million, and at the Lunar New Year, the number was about 940,000,” Khon said.
The minister added that tourists’ movement has created “a lot of economic benefits” at the national level. Boutiques, hotels, guesthouses and other accommodation services in “almost all provinces” that have been able to reopen their businesses have received “almost 100 per cent full” bookings.
Meanwhile, restaurants and eateries were also reportedly nearly full during the three days – a stark contrast to muted Khmer New Year celebrations during the Covid-19 crisis, which were marked by many Cambodians eating homemade food informally, on the streets.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan said that in these difficult circumstances, where Covid-19 still poses a socio-economic threat, the fact that Cambodians can still afford to pay for trips during the such national festival reflects the “good condition” of the economy.
On average, a five-member family spends “between $350-500” during each holiday, he noted. Spending during this year’s traditional Khmer New Year has “really helped” the hospitality and hotel sectors, especially in Siem Reap – “even if only for a short time, it helped at least once during this difficult period”, he said.
Sinan said three types of service providers benefitted the most during the New Year holiday period: hotel and guesthouse services, restaurant and informal eateries, and street vendors.
Seng Srey Rith, sales and marketing manager at Starry Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap, told The Post that after missing out on the Khmer New Year celebrations for the past two years, the accommodations sector is “overjoyed” this year about the “more than expected” large number of guests, most of whom, she noted, are Cambodians, with only a handful of foreign guests.
“The number of guests has increased, especially during the second and third days of the Khmer New Year. Although there were many guests, we did not increase prices at our hotel, keeping them at between $30 and $36 per room – which we think is reasonable because we want our guests to want to come again,” she said.
Srey Rith noted that after the Khmer New Year, occupancy rates at her hotel yet again began to decline. Nonetheless, she expressed optimism about the recovery of tourism sector, saying that she expected international, fully-vaccinated tourists – especially from Asia – to return soon due to the government reducing the mandatory quarantine period for this category of visitors.
Cambodia ranks second in the world out of 122 countries in terms of the percentage of the population that has been fully vaccinated.
Tourism ministry figures show that the most popular destinations over the four day weekend, and their corresponding visitor numbers, were the provinces of Battambang (653,896), Kampong Cham (541,900), Banteay Meanchey (471,119), Siem Reap (455,984), Prey Veng (396,328), Kampong Speu (345,018), Pursat (338,916), Kampong Chhnang (300,561), Kampot (284,893) and Preah Sihanouk (264,308), followed by Phnom Penh (240,460).