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New Year sees tourism boom

Tourists explore Bayon Temple in Siem Reap
Tourists explore Bayon Temple in Siem Reap. Khmer New Year tourist numbers to Siem Reap increased 44 per cent over last year. Heng Chivoan

New Year sees tourism boom

The number of domestic and foreign tourists visiting historical sites and the Kingdom’s coastal areas increased sharply during this year’s three-day Khmer New Year, according to provincial tourism departments.

Data from Siem Reap’s tourism department show 258,000 tourists visited the city of ancient temples, an increase of 44 per cent compared to the same period last year. Local tourists reached 240,000, up 46 per cent, while foreign tourists rose 17 per cent to 18,000.

Chheuy Chhorn, director of the Siem Reap tourism department, said the increase was largely due to the Angkor Sangkran festival, which has now run for two years.

“This year, more people from provinces came to Siem Reap because they wanted to witness the Angkor Sangkran and the giant rice cake,” he said, referring to the two-ton, $7000 rice cake which was on display in front of the Angkor Wat temple complex during the three-day festival.

Chhorn said that all hotels and guesthouses in the province were fully booked and the crowds were as big as those seen at the annual water festival celebration in Phnom Penh.

Minster for Tourism Thorng Khon said during the closing ceremony of the Angkor Sangkran on Wednesday that the festival had generated an estimated $28 million for Siem Reap’s economy.

Down south, meanwhile, Kampot province attracted 74,075 visitors during Khmer New Year. Soy Sinol, director of the Kampot province tourism department, said Bokor Mountain and Teuk Chhu remain the top destinations for local tourists, while foreign visitors prefer more adventurous destinations such as Kampong Trach cave.

Koh Kong, also on the coast but closer to the Thai border and home to the Cardamom Mountains, recorded more than 12,000 tourists over the three days.

Youn Tean, deputy director for the Koh Kong tourism department, said tourists mostly headed to the four eco-tourism based communities of Ta Tai, Trapang Rong, Chi Phat and Bangka Yak.

Sok Seiha, an official from the Sihanoukville tourism department, said more than 53,000 local and foreign tourists flooded the province, a 5 per cent increase on last year’s figures.

Seiha said that despite a notable increase in food and accommodation prices, all Sihanoukville hotels and guesthouses were full during the Khmer New Year period.

Reports of inflated food and accommodation prices came despite warnings to hotel, guesthouse and transport operators from Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month.

“If we charge the same as normal or only increase it a little, we will get clients next year. But if we increase the price a lot, they will go to other places instead next time,” he said on April 7.

Som Chenda, the director of the tourism department in Kep, where a reported 83,000 local and foreign tourists descended during the three-day New Year break, said that people should tolerate the increased price of food and accommodation during the holiday season.

He said that despite requests to the service providers to keep prices reasonable, high demand and low supply of food and accommodation made price rises inevitable.

“We sent them [service providers] a notice about price setting, but when there is more demand with less supply, it will result in higher price. It is that simple,” Chenda said.

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