THIS year’s Pchum Ben festival saw tourism numbers decline in Cambodia’s coastal provinces, as industry insiders said poor weather on the last day kept many would-be travellers at home.
The Pchum Ben festival – which ran from Thursday to Saturday last week – traditionally sees Cambodians return to home provinces to pay respect to their ancestors, and many also slip in some holiday time.
Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Cambodians traditionally visited pagodas during the festival.
“We observe that Phnom Penh almost completely empties out during Pchum Ben,” and festival celebrants were increasingly taking part in tourist activities after visiting pagodas, he said.
Sboang Sarath, Preah Sihanouk provincial governor, said some 1,000 vehicles had carted visitors into the province during the first two days of the festival, but arrivals had tapered off due to heavy rain on the last day. Better weather last year attracted a larger number of visitors.
The owner of Preah Sihanouk province’s Apsara Guesthouse, Kong Dina, said all 10 rooms of her guesthouse had been rented out during the first two days of the festival, but that rain had sent many guests packing and kept visitors off the beach.
An influx of tourists to Kep province pushed up the cost of seafood, according to Kep’s Seagull restaurant manager Chheng Kim. The price of sea crabs rose from the usual 25,000 riels (US$5.90) to around 40,000 riels ($9.40) per kilogram.
Meanwhile the owner of Rattanakkiri province’s Chheng Lok hotel, Chea Somaly, said the business did not earn as much during the festival this year as visitors were kept away because of bad roads and heavy raining.
“In previous years, we increased the cost of rooms and still didn’t have enough rooms,” she said.
“This year we decreased room costs but only a few guests came.”