Travellers in Phnom Penh are increasingly turning towards air-conditioned taxis
instead of aggressive tuk-tuk drivers.
One of the city's new air-conditioned taxis on parade in Phnom Peng.
Cambodia's only metred-taxi company, Global Trade Development (Cambodia), reports brisk ridership since it launched in the Kingdom in July last year.
In a market previously monopolised by tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis, the introduction of air-conditioned taxi cars was a difficult first-step, says Global Trade Development CEO Lim Sovann.
Six months ago the company was only receiving between 20 and 30 customers a day, but since then traffic has increased more than tenfold.
"Given that we were the first company to start investing in metered taxis in Cambodia, we have met a lot of difficulties," he said.
Public displeasure with the city's often pushy and aggressive tuk-tuk drivers has helped the company attract both local and foreign customers.
"Now each day we receive 400 customers. About 85 percent of them are Cambodians and the rest are foreigners," he added, a sign that the local population has begun to accept changes in the transport market.
The service, which costs customers 4,000 riels (US$1) for every two kilometres, has almost reached its capacity. The company's initial investment of $1.5 million saw the introduction of 24 cars in Phnom Penh with a further 12 recently imported vehicles ready to be introduced for service in the capital, all from China.
Bun Sambo, an employee at Global Trade Development, pointed to the safety, air-conditioned interior and low-cost - when four people travel in the same car - as the main advantages that attracted customers to metered taxis.
"We are almost at the point where we need more cars to supply our customers," said Hun Chhunhav, who is in charge of receiving phone calls from customers at the company office.
The company noted that about 95 percent of feedback from customers was positive, with negative comments mostly related to the slowness of the service during peak traffic times.
Despite the significant increase in business, Lim Sovann says the company has not yet broken even, but he plans to expand service outside the capital.
"We have to strengthen our service to be reliable for our customers in Phnom Penh city first," he said.
He added that investment could rise by $3 million to $4 million in the future.
Unsurprisingly, the competition from metered taxis in Phnom Penh has impacted tuk-tuk operators.
"There has been a decrease in customers taking tuk-tuk services due to the presence of metered taxis in Phnom Penh and the economic downturn that means fewer people are travelling," said Heng Sam Orn, general secretary of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association which represents Tuk-Tuk operators in Cambodia.
"When they take a metred taxi once, they often stop taking tuk-tuks."