Holidaymakers made 116,819 domestic trips across Cambodia during the first weekend of the month, from October 2-3, with the capital ranking as the top destination, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The ministry noted that 113,856 Cambodians and 2,963 foreign residents visited Phnom Penh (25,934) and the provinces of Kampot (24,732), Preah Sihanouk (15,172), Kep (9,266), Battambang (6,752), Kandal (4,616), Pursat (4,579) and Mondulkiri (4,249). The remaining 17 provinces saw 21,519 visitors over the two days.
This means that on a per-day average basis, the number of domestic trips over October 2-3 across the Kingdom rose by 67.33 per cent from the previous weekend – 102,063 from September 24-26, as reported by the ministry.
Domestic tourism will in all likelihood remain at relatively high levels during this week as Pchum Ben comes to a close.
For the 15 days following the harvest moon, Cambodian Buddhists observe Pchum Ben – which falls from September 22 to October 6 this year – the first 14 days 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 blessing the spirits of the dead and is an occasion for families to get together.
Most tourist attractions across the Kingdom are now open to visitors, with the exception of Kampong Chhnang province, where a number of coronavirus-related bans remain in place, including on sightseeing areas.
However the increased travel raises Covid concerns for the government and the private sector, even though more than 13.44 million people, aged 6 and up, or 84.01 per cent of the estimated 16 million population have received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, as indicated by the October 3 Covid-19 Vaccination Progress Report.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan welcomed the uptick in domestic tourism but expressed concern over a potential Pchum Ben surge in coronavirus infections.
Should any serious ramifications arise, “Cambodia's plan to start opening up to vaccinated international tourists will also be in jeopardy,” he said.
On October 3, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a circular to strengthen health measures to control the spread of Covid-19 during and after Pchum Ben.
He urged relevant authorities to pay close attention during the holiday and to administer Covid-19 rapid tests to workers at factories, civil servants at state institutions and employees at various organisations after the holiday.