Holidaymakers made nearly one million domestic trips across Cambodia during the second week of the month, which analysts say is markedly above average and part of an uptrend driven by the October 1 soft-launch of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway and Water Festival events held in a number of provinces.

The Ministry of Tourism reported on October 18 that 938,928 domestic trips were made nationwide from October 10-16, with Cambodians accounting for 914,543 (97.40 per cent) and foreign residents 24,385 (2.60 per cent).

Among first-level administrative divisions, Kampong Cham province recorded the most trips over the seven days at 401,929, followed by the provinces of Preah Sihanouk (139,591), Battambang (135,899), Prey Veng (68,525), Pursat (59,845), Siem Reap (27,822), and Kampot (23,246), the ministry said in a notice.

Although the notice did not contain the corresponding figures for the previous week, the ministry earlier reported that 374,895 domestic trips were made on October 8-9 – 128,307 (34.22 per cent) of which were to Preah Sihanouk province – with Cambodians accounting for 352,884 (94.13 per cent) and foreign residents 22,011 (5.87 per cent).

The notice added: “The increase in domestic travel in the past week was due to the Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Pursat provincial administrations hosting Water Festival events with fireworks and exhibitions that lured in many tourists and residents.

“Meanwhile, Preah Sihanouk continued to receive many tourists for the second consecutive week, with the [Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville] Expressway remaining free-of-charge for commuters for October 1-31, 2022,” the ministry said, adding that provinces with major rivers have or are preparing Water Festival events.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would suspend Water Festival celebrations in Phnom Penh, citing the upcoming ASEAN Summit and Covid-19 concerns, but said he would allow each province to decide whether or not to follow suit.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan also stated that tourists were on the rise, a trend he said reflects positive development in a tourism sector that has been plagued by fallout from the global Covid health crisis for more than two years.

“It’s a positive sign of the tourism recovery process that people are more confident in travelling. At the same time, we’ve also observed that the Water Festival events organised in some provinces and especially the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway’s soft launch have encouraged a lot of people to go on trips,” he said.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna underscored that, in addition to the expressway, other reasons for the increased travel to the coastal province include: a desire to see the new buildings and infrastructure; and pent-up demand among families to swim in the sea after more than two years of Covid.

However, while the uptrend in trips by Cambodians and foreign residents has been appreciable, and the same for travellers from neighbouring and regional countries a bit more gradual, the change in number of visitors from more distant destinations has not been very pronounced, he told The Post on October 17.

“We’re very pleased with the increase in the number of tourists visiting Preah Sihanouk, but at the same time, we need to do more to promote the potential of Cambodia’s tourism sector on the international stage, by organising major events, ensuring safety, developing new tourism products, and making sure that services better align with standards, to attract more people to the Kingdom,” he said.