Tourism industry experts are anticipating an increase in visitors to the Kingdom during this year’s high season and encouraging communities in lesser-known areas to think creatively and find new ways to draw tourists out from the usual destinations.

Thourn Sinan – chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, said his organisation observed that a majority of guesthouses in Siem Reap and the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep were almost fully booked over the holiday weekend.

He also noted that restaurants in those towns all seemed to be doing a brisk business for a 48-72 hour straight period while celebrations were taking place.

He said Cambodia needs to make more preparations for the uptick in tourist arrivals that he expects to see this season, especially by creating tourist attractions in communities that do not have any traditional ones of their own so as to spread the flow of tourists more evenly across the Kingdom and share the resulting economic benefits with those communities as well.

“Our people who are domestic tourists should spend their time travelling to other communities so that they will not all just gather only in one area. In order for domestic tourists to begin to travel more extensively to local areas, we have to work together between the government, provincial authorities and the Ministry of Tourism to identify or create tourist attractions that can ease the livelihoods of the Kingdom’s rural residents,” he continued.

Tourism ministry secretary of state and spokesman Top Sopheak said that preparations to receive tourists for this year were not different from those of the past years, as each target province still continued to prepare to welcome a larger number of tourists in the New Year.

“Cambodia had two million tourists during two days of the New Year celebrations [December 31-January 1]. Nothing happened out of the ordinary. Herd immunity resulting from adequate Covid-19 vaccinations staved off transmission and encouraged people to travel without concerns while we have created more tourist products to meet the needs of domestic and international visitors,” he added.

The ministry noted that Phnom Penh received more than 450,000 people who visited major urban tourist attractions such as Koh Pich, river front areas, the Royal Palace, Chroy Changvar’s riverfront entertainment area, Win-Win Monument and the Morodok Techo National Stadium on the ourskirts of the capital.

Tourist destinations across the country attracted a large number of domestic tourists. Hotel rooms, guesthouses, resorts and bungalows were almost 100 per cent booked in some of the most popular areas.

According to the ministry, over the two-day holiday weekend, Cambodia saw a total of 2,022,920 people travelling within the Kingdom to celebrate the New Year, representing an increase of 76.65 per cent over the 2022 New Year celebrations, though there were only 16,803 international tourists recorded out of that number.

Overall, Phnom Penh received 455, 832 visitors; Sihanoukville 338,552; Siem Reap 337,769; Kampot 330, 659; Battambang 158,110; Kep 88,356; Tbong Khmum 84,683; and Kampong Cham 76,901.